Sunday, January 2, 2011

Patrick Cramsie response to Blue Pencil no. 10

Since Blue Pencil does not post comments without moderation (and I am a very slow overseer of the blog) I was not aware of Patrick Cramsie’s attempt to respond to my dissection of The Story of Graphic Design until he contacted me directly. At the time I promised to post his lengthy response but not until I had a chance to read through them. Unfortunately, the press of teaching and work prevented me from doing anything related to Blue Pencil the past few months. Only now am I posting his comments—and reading them for the first time. I have made only a few comments in return as I do not want this post to become a back-and-forth snipe contest. Instead, I would rather let Blue Pencil readers make up their own minds on subjects Mr. Cramsie and I disagree on. I have edited out of his response his explanation of how events in his personal life affected the quality of the book. I believe that 1. the book should be judged on its own account, and 2. that his personal life is not something that belongs on Blue Pencil. The images are from Mr. Cramsie.

—Paul Shaw

The Story of Graphic Design: from the Invention of Writing to the Birth of Digital Design

Patrick Cramsie

New York: Abrams and London: The British Library, 2010

p. 23 “graphe” should have an grave accent on the final e

See the response below.

p. 23 “constantcy” [is this a Britishism or misspelling?]

A misspelling. Galling to admit it but this mistake and the others identified in Blue Pencil’s comments immediately above and below are among a dozen or so similar errors that appear in the book. Nearly all were picked up before the book was printed, but the corrections were not incorporated into the final text. The responsibility for the appearance of these mistakes in print is mine alone.

p. 25 “distiction” should be “distinction”

See the response above.

fig. 2.6 Scribal palette and brushes[,] c.15,500–14,500BC the image should be larger; as it is, the objects are not clear

The main reason for including the images of palettes and brushes was to show the inkwells and colours commonly used by Egyptian scribes (as described in the text). Though the images are relatively small, the inkwells and colours are still clearly visible. The images also help to explain the description of the small “hieroglyphic badge of two inkwells” (p. 33) inscribed on the statue’s left shoulder.

Two other considerations guided the size of these images. By making them this size an appropriate hierarchy was established between them and the other images on the spread. The implements (palettes and brushes) have a lower status than the artworks shown (in particular, the papyrus and the statue). If the former were to be larger then the latter would have to be larger too, so that the hierarchy could be preserved. Enlarging both, though, would have made it hard to follow another important consideration: that readers benefit greatly from having the illustrations appear as close to the relevant pieces of text as possible. This second consideration is a central feature of the book (see the response to Blue Pencil’s comment ‘fig. 2.16’ below, and others). The final size chosen for the palettes allows both of the above considerations to be followed while also making what was most important about the palettes – the inkwells and colours – visible.

p. 33 “A red quartzite statue made in Egypt between 750 and 712BC (fig. 2.7) shows the classic pose of an Egyptian scribe….”

[The statue in fig. 2.7 is green, not red.]

The particular image from the British Museum does, indeed, have a slightly greenish hue rather than a red one. But in order to avoid any possible misunderstanding from Blue Pencil’s comment that “the statue … IS [my emphasis] green”, it should be made clear that the statue is, as stated in the book, made of red quartzite.

fig. 2.16 Trajan’s Column, Rome, c.AD113 this photograph of the Trajan Column should be next to the detail of the inscription on the column in fig. 2.19 rather than on separate pages (pp. 40 and 42).

The importance of placing images next to relevant pieces of text has been stated above (see response to Blue Pencil’s comment ‘fig. 2.6’). The first mention of the inscription, on p. 40, describes it as part of a monument. It was useful, therefore, to show this monument. This mention was part of a general description of where Roman lettering appeared. The next mention of the inscription is at the very end of p. 41 and then more fully on p. 42. Here the text focuses on some of the features of the inscribed letters. If the detailed image that accompanied this second mention had appeared on the preceding spread, next to the image of the monument, then the reader would have to flit back and forth, turning a page every time they did so, in order to see what the second inscriptional text was talking about. Of course, there would be a benefit from placing the two pictures next to each other (the reader could then place the detail in its context immediately). So it could be argued that the text should have been written in a different order, with both mentions of the inscription appearing together. However, in the context of the chapter more broadly, it was necessary to give an explanation of square capitals (and show examples of them) before focusing on the capitals in Trajan’s Column in detail.

fig. 2.18 Rustic capitals, c.AD730 the example of rustic shown is a Carolingian version (8th c.) which is quite different from the original Roman rustic of the 1st c. and after that is the subject of the text on p. 41.

[This is one of a number of comments that will be responded to in a later submission. Those comments and others to which no response needs to be made have been removed from the remainder of this submission.]

p. 43 “Some historians have linked the invention of the Roman serif to the carver’s chisel…. Another more recent theory has linked it to the invention of a square-cut writing implement; not a reed or quill, but a flat brush….”

[Father E.M. Catich should be identified as the author of the second theory which is now the preferred one.]

Any book that aims to describe the broad sweep of a subject has to confront the difficulty of deciding how much detail to include. The danger for such books is that readers (many of whom are likely to be new to the subject) will feel bombarded by a barrage of names. Decisions had to be made, therefore, as to which of those individuals who weren’t designers or inventors of technical processes should be mentioned. This discriminating approach to names was emphasized in the introduction: “No attempt has been made to include each of the most significant individuals in the field” (p. 12). This was not a case of ‘dumbing down’ or wanting to be evasive. It was the result of a genuine effort to try and communicate to a specific audience in the most effective way.

Supporting this approach was the fact that this book is not meant to be a complete history. The introduction describes the aim of the book thus: “As the title [of the book] indicates, this is not meant to be a straightforward history of graphic design, with all the completeness that such a history would be expected to provide” (p. 12), and then also: “The aim behind the ‘story’ being told here is to sketch out the main styles of Western graphic design” (p. 12).

(An aside on the use of the word ‘story’: in one review of the book the reviewer questioned whether an attempt was being made to “fool” the reader by using the word ‘story’ in the title rather than ‘history’. But not only does the word ‘story’ help to emphasize the narrative approach of the book – a feature that distinguishes the book from many other graphic design histories of a similar scope – also it is doubtful whether anyone would feel fooled. Using ‘The Story of …’ in the title of narrative histories of art (as well as other subjects) has become well established. It is likely that most of these books have been encouraged to use this sort of title by the success of E. H. Gombrich’s The Story of Art, which has become perhaps the world’s best-selling art book. It has remained in print for over half a century and sold many millions of copies.)

It is a moot point whether the proponent of a theory, in this instance Father E. M. Catich, should be included in the main text, especially when, as here, there is no further discussion of the theory in the text, e.g. claims for and against. Ideally, Father Catich (and others like him, who are relevant but not as central as the designers and inventors) would have been included in more comprehensive endnotes. For reasons of cost and time it was not possible to provide notes for much more than the sources of quotes in the text. It is hoped that this lack can be addressed in a subsequent edition or else, perhaps, in a ‘Story of Graphic Design’ website.

(There is an interesting passage in the ‘Editor’s Preface’, written by W. R. Lethaby, at the start of Edward Johnston’s Writing & Illuminating, & Lettering (1906): “The Roman characters, which are our letters to-day, although their earlier forms have only come down to us cut in stone, must have been formed by incessant practice with a flat, stiff brush, or some such tool. The disposition of the thicks and thins, and the exact shape of the curves, must have been settled by an instrument used rapidly; I suppose, indeed, that most of the great monumental inscriptions were designed in situ by a master writer, and only cut in by the mason, the cutting being merely a fixing, as it were, of the writing, and the cut inscriptions must always have been intended to be completed by painting.” (pp. ix–x, 18th impression; London: Sir Isaac Pitman, 1939).

In Father Catich’s most thorough assessment of the origin of the serif, The Origin of the Serif: Brush Writing and Roman Letters (Davenport, IA: St Ambrose University, 1968), no mention is made of Lethaby’s apposite text (perhaps because it contains no direct reference to serifs), yet there is a quote from another part of Johnston’s book (and there are many other quotes (many of which don’t mention serifs) from other sources).

[James Mosley has privately made the same point to me that Mr. Cramsie does about Father Catich not properly acknowledging Lethaby’s earlier suggestion that a brush was the key agent in making the Trajanic capitals. Catich was egotistical and he may have deliberately done this or he may have felt that his theory was different because he was writing about a flexible flat-edged brush rather than a stiff one. I am in the process of trying to gain access to Father Catich’s notebooks regarding the writing of The Origin of the Serif to see if there are any references to Lethaby.]

p. 51 “This Lindisfarne scribe did not write with the standard Roman uncial script….”

[Eadfrith, Bishop of Lindisfarne was the scribe and his name should be mentioned]

The degree of uncertainty that surrounds the identity of the scribe led to his name being omitted. “Some scholars have argued that Eadfrith and Ethelwald did not themselves make the manuscript …” p. 13, The Lindisfarne Gospels by Janet Backhouse, paperback edition (Oxford: Phaidon Press, 1987) – though Backhouse does then go on to talk of Eadfrith as the scribe. Perhaps I was too conservative and Eadfrith should have been mentioned (though it is thought likely that he was not a bishop at the time that he wrote out the text, despite being named with that title in a colophon added some 250 years after the manuscript was written).

p. 52 “The compass and divider marks on the back of the pages show how an ordered symmetry of repeated rectangular units underpins the [Lindisfarne Gospels’ carpet] page’s apparently free-form design.”

[why not diagram the underlying grid of the design in fig. 3.6?]

… because a separate diagram would have meant three images being given to the Lindisfarne Gospels. This would have placed an undue (pictorial) emphasis on this single work (the other two images already being large ones, and, in combination, larger than those of any other work). Few other works in the whole book receive this special treatment, and all except four works in the first three chapters of ‘pre-history’ have a single image (the four others have two images). A diagram could have been placed on top of the detail of the carpet page, but this would have disturbed the reader’s appreciation of the mesmeric intensity and intricacy of the page (described in the text). As it is, an effort was made to give some pictorial emphasis to the underlying grid. I chose to illustrate the carpet page that gave over the greatest sense of the grid through its design (in fig. 3.6 each of the bordered sections of decoration can be seen clearly to derive their shape and position from a more-or-less square unit).

pp. 54–55 [in the discussion of the Caroline or Carolingian minuscule and the writing reforms initiated under Charlemagne there is no mention of Alcuin of York who was responsible for them; there is also no full image of a page from a Carolingian manuscript, such as the Grandval Bible, to show the full effect of Alcuin’s reforms and why Carolingian manuscripts are so visually different from their medieval successors.]

Alcuin of York was responsible for many of the writing reforms initiated under Charlemagne, but not always in the sense of actually creating or introducing them (Blue Pencil’s comment might lead some readers to think that he did). While Alcuin was closely involved in the standardization of spelling, punctuation and pronunciation, and other things besides (see pp. 30–35, Pause and Effect by M. B. Parkes (Aldershot, Hants: Scolar Press, 1992), he was not involved in the creation of the Carolingian minuscule, which is the principal focus of the text. This script was introduced during the first of three distinct phases of biblical reform carried out under Charlemagne. It was Maurdramnus, the abbot of Corbie from 772–781, who introduced this influential script (see The Book. The History of the Bible by Christopher De Hamel (London: Phaidon Press, 2001) and A Guide to Western Historical Scripts from Antiquity to 1600 by Michelle P. Brown (London: The British Library, 1990)). This is not to say that Alcuin’s period as abbot of St Martin’s Abbey in Tours (from c. 796–804) was not important in helping the script spread (though other factors were also important).

The Grandval Bible’s most noted feature is its illustrations. But because these are so clearly illustrative, as opposed to decorative and schematic, as the carpet pages of the Lindisfarne Gospels are, they were not included. But then neither were the Grandval’s text pages. In them a busy hierarchy of historical scripts – square capitals, rustic capitals and uncials – sits alongside a Carolingian minuscule. These historical scripts had already been shown elsewhere in The Story of Graphic Design. Furthermore, there was a benefit in showing a more settled page, one that had absorbed the full force of Carolingian influences but then settled down into something closer to what we have today. Hence the illustration of a page from a similarly large Bible from the early twelfth century (fig. 3.10).

[I disagree with the assessment that the pages of the Grandval Bible are marked by a “busy hierarchy of historical scripts”. The careful mixing of older scripts in combination with the new Caroline minuscule is one of the reasons that the manuscript is worth illustrating. It is unfortunate that the British Library does not show pages from the manuscript (Add. Ms. 10546) on its website. See p. 50 in Historical Scripts by Stan Knight (New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press, 1998) for folio 411v.]

fig. 3.12 Glossed Bible, France, thirteenth century

[the single image is not sufficient to show the complex layouts that characterize Parisian glossed Bibles; a second page with a different columnar arrangement would show how the gloss and the main text changed in tandem. Although the image is small, fig. 3.13 (on the following page) provides a welcome detail.]

The purpose of showing a Parisian glossed Bible was not to characterize these particular kinds of Bibles. It was to illustrate the variety and ordered complexity of layouts achieved prior to the introduction of printing. This chapter is one of three that sets out graphic design’s ‘pre-history’. It covers a broad timespan (over a thousand years) and therefore it was important that the chapter did not dwell for too long on a particular kind of work. As the introduction states: “It is the main broadest branches [of graphic style] that concern this book. By setting them out clearly, it is hoped that anyone coming to the subject for the first time will be able to see its basic structure …” (p. 12). And, I hope, readers will go on to explore aspects of that structure (such as Parisian glossed Bibles) in greater depth.

p. 63 “texturalis rotunda” should be “textualis rotunda”

See the response to Blue Pencil’s comment ‘p. 23’ (‘constantcy’) above.

fig. 4.1 Forme of type for Mainz Psalter, 1463 [this forme of type for the Mainz Psalter must be a re-creation or recasting and not the actual type that Fust and Schoeffer used. There is no mention of it on the website of the Gutenberg Museum which is where Cramsie indicates he obtained his image.]

This type is a recreation made by the Museum, possibly in 1962 when the Museum’s new exhibition hall was opened (the Museum’s curator was unsure exactly when the recreation was made). The caption should have described it as a recreation.

p. 69 “The quotation here [below the image of St. Christopher] is followed by the date 1423, which may be when the woodcut was made, rather than when it was printed.”

fig. 4.5 Buxheim St Christopher, Italy, after 1423

[based on the discussion in the text (see above), this date should be “1423 or after”; Drucker & McVarish (2008), p. 65 accept the date of 1423.]

It should be “1423 or after”.

figs. 4.6, 4.8, 4.9 and others should be larger so that details (especially of lettering or type) may be more easily seen.

The context in which these illustration appear is a general discussion of printing leading up to and including Gutenberg. Most of the kinds of lettering in the illustrations have been discussed in the previous chapter. The text that describes a block-book page (shown in fig. 4.6) explains its overall features, not its style of lettering; this is why the whole page was shown, rather than an enlargement or detail. Furthermore, the block-book was not, of itself, important enough to be given its own full page. The lettering on the gold coins (fig. 4.8) has clearly been made by a punched or impressed design, which was the purpose of including this picture. Gutenberg’s indulgence (fig. 4.9) needed to be seen in its totality, to make clear that it was a piece of ephemera, in contrast to Gutenberg’s Bible, which appears on the opposite page as a whole book. Had the indulgence been enlarged so that only a detail could be shown this contrast couldn’t have been made as effectively. Also, if it had been any larger it would have somewhat overpowered the Bible shown opposite. The two images needed to work together on a spread.

p. 72 “Gutenberg was not the only person from this time to be heralded as the inventor of printing. A few have argued that he stole the idea and the tools to execute it from a Dutch printer.”

[Why not identify Laurens Janszoon Coster here rather than relegating him to a note on p. 330?]

See the response to Blue Pencil’s comment ‘p. 43’ above.

fig. 4.13 Mainz Psalter, Peter Schoeffer, 1457 is dark; compare it to the reproduction in Meggs (2006), p. 75 (which might be too bright).

The source of this image is a copy of the Psalter held by the British Library. When looking at the actual page with the naked eye it does appear quite dark. Whether it is darker than the same page from the source used in Meggs (2006) I don’t know. (Not owning this edition of Meggs, I’m not yet able to check if the sources are the same.) If they are from different sources, it is likely that the different conditions in which the two copies have been kept over the last 553 years will have caused them to age differently.

[Surely a copy of Meggs 2006 is available somewhere in London, either at a bookstore or library.]

p. 77 “What was even more unique [about the Mainz Psalter by Fust and Schoeffer] was the inclusion of a third color, blue, or in some instances, grey [in the large woodcut initial B].”

What is the source for the assertion that some copies have gray as the third color? None of the books I have nor online sources mentions a color other than blue.

“… [the Mainz Psalter was] the first book to carry out the printing of not only rubrics, but also elaborate initials in one and two colors—red and blue or gray” p. 82, The Art & History of Books by Norma Levarie (London: The British Library and New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 1995). An online image search soon shows the following from the Gutenberg Museum’s website:


The decoration around the initial 'B' looks light (bluish/greenish) grey (which the Museum judges to be close to the colour it was printed rather than a faded colour). The image is taken from the Museum’s own copy of the Psalter. This copy, though, is one of the four known copies of the second, slightly larger and longer version of the Psalter, which Fust and Schoeffer printed in 1459; not one of the six known copies of the 1457 version (the version illustrated in the book). The text should, perhaps, have been more precise, though it is difficult to offer much more precision. Grey appears to have been printed in another copy of the later, 1459 version (held by the Morgan Library and Museum, New York), though grey does not appear on the equivalent page (or any page perhaps?) in three of the 1457 versions held in the UK (the British Library, the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and the Royal Collection, Windsor). It appears likely then that this grey is confined to the second version.

fig. 4.14 Papal bull, title page, Peter Schoeffer, Mainz, 1463

[The subject of the bull by Pius II, a rejection of conciliarism in favor of papalism, would be worth mentioning since it helped pave the way for Martin Luther and the Reformation.]

The chapter begins with a general description (in which Martin Luther is mentioned) of the conflict between the Church and reformers. The description, on p. 73, of an indulgence printed by Gutenberg includes an outline of the same conflict (also mentioning Martin Luther). Another reference of this kind, though apposite to the Papal bull, would have been too much.

p. 78 “The small rounded Gothic type [in Johan Zainer’s 1473 edition of “De mulieribus claris” by Giovanni Boccaccio] is less compact than the more angular and tighter Gothic of earlier incunabula. It gives the text area a lightness and an airiness, which is added to by the wider interlinear spacing….”

[online sources (except Wikipedia) give the title of the Boccaccio work as “De claris mulieribus”]

Many online sources use the seemingly more modern form of title “De mulieribus claris” (perhaps because it conforms to standard Latin grammar – adjective following noun); and the most recent and authoritative English translation of Boccaccio’s text uses the same word order (see Famous Women by Giovanni Boccaccio, translated by Virginia Brown (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001)).

[This aesthetic description/discussion of what is a rotunda type used by a German printer might be explained by the subject: was Zainer choosing an “Italian” type to go with an Italian author (and a vernacular text) or was this the only typeface he had? This book influenced William Morris and his Kelmscott Press books (and Troy typeface) and some foreshadowing of that would be welcome.]

As a rule, there is no foreshadowing. It would thrust the reader forward into a previously unseen image or unread piece of text when the same end could be achieved by referencing back, from the later image (or text) to the earlier influence. (This corresponds to the way influence is usually exerted, through a discovery of something from the past). Thus, p. 144 includes a mention of the influence that a Bible printed by Peter Schoeffer had on one of Morris’s types and this mention is followed by a reference back to Schoeffer on p. 77.

fig. 4.17 ‘The Recuyell of the Histories of Troy’, printed by William Caxton, Bruges, c.1473/4

[The missing initial should be noted.]

… as an interesting aside perhaps (though the flow of the text is on the kind of type used rather than the peculiarities of that particular page).

p. 79 “Caxton had translated it [The Recuyell of the Histories of Troy] himself from French before printing it in Bruges around 1473/4. The text was printed with type that had been specially made for the book. Its design was based on the Gothic bâtarde script, which had been popular in manuscripts produced for the Burgundian court.

[It should be pointed out that bâtarde was the type used by Colard Mansion, Caxton’s Bruges master, and that it was a type associated with the vernacular.]

For an earlier mention of the link between Gothic bâtarde and vernacular texts see pp. 61–62 (though it refers to the script rather than type): “During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the script rose in status to become the standard script for luxurious editions of romances and histories …”, etc. The link between Gothic bâtarde type and vernacular texts is mentioned on p. 73: “[the indulgence’s] status as an essentially utilitarian, clerical document was reflected in its type and layout. Most of the type in this example is based on a semi-formal Gothic letter, bâtarde …” (followed by a back-reference to p. 62).

fig. 5.2 Printed and illuminated book, Milan, 1490 is murky; why is there no credit for the printer or an identification of the text? p. 340 identifies the book as “Sforziada di Giovanni Simoneta”. It is the Sforziada, or life of Francesco Sforza, written by Giovanni Simoneta and illuminated by Giovan Pietro Birago.]

“Sforziada di Giovanni Simoneta” is how the manuscript is described in the British Library’s catalogue. But yes, the image should have been identified by its more common name, along with the name of the illuminator and the printer, Antonius Zarotus.

p. 85 “Italy was the first country to receive the German invention of printing (two German printers set up a press in the town of Subiaco, outside Rome….”

[Why not identify Conrad Swenheym and Arnold Pannartz?]

As indicated by the brackets, this is an aside. See the response to Blue Pencil’s comment ‘p. 43’ above.

p. 85 the discussion of littera antiqua does not mention Poggio Bracciolini, the most important figure in its development, nor is there an image of the script. The emphasis on Felice Feliciano in the revival of the Imperial Roman capital neglects far more important figures such as Mantegna, Bartolomeo Sanvito and Andrea Bregno.]

Poggio Bracciolini may have been the first to make a close study of classical inscriptions during this period, but he and the others mentioned above, including Felice Feliciano, were attempting to revive these letters in architecture. According to Harry Carter, it was Feliciano’s drawings that led to an interest in littera antiqua from outside architecture: “[these drawings] led to a series of attempts to construct the letters by rigid geometry beginning with a booklet by Damiano Moylle …” p. 46, A View of Early Typography Up to About 1600 by Harry Carter, paperback reprint (London: Hyphen Press, 2002), and “it was Felice Feliciano who was responsible for the special excellence of Italian types and for making Italy the fountain-head of the main stream in typography” p. 71, ibid.

[I believe that Feliciano’s influence and that of other treatises on constructed letters in the 15th c. has been grossly overrated. I have written on this vis a vis late Quattrocento inscriptional letters in “Towards a New Understanding of the Revival of Roman Capitals and the Achievement of Andrea Bregno” in Andrea Bregno: Il Senso della Forma nella Cultura Artistica del Rinascimento (2008). See my post of 24 February 2009. Carter does not directly connect Feliciano to Jenson et al.]

pp. 85–86 “He [Nicolaus Jenson] sought out the best examples of incised capitals and littera antiqua and then adapted them so expertly that, despite his type being one of the earliest roman types, it is still regarded as one of the finest (fig. 5.4).”

[It should be noted that Jenson’s types bear little resemblance in their capitals to Roman incised capitals and that despite many authors claiming a kinship between his minuscules and the littera antiqua (or humanist bookhand) no one has yet identified an example that is similar other than in the most general way. Gerrit Noordzij has suggested that Jenson’s roman is actually influenced more by textura. See in “Gothic” by Noordzij in Alphabet (vol. 26, no. 3 Spring 2001), pp. 21–26.]

Harry Carter again: “However, Jenson to a large extent and Aldus completely laid down a pattern of a consortium preserving the purity of the antique capitals and making the lower-case conform with them …” p. 47, A View of Early Typography Up to About 1600 by Harry Carter, paperback reprint (London: Hyphen Press, 2002), and “[a punchcutter] could cease to copy penmanship and go back to the model [incised letters]. With the Roman types of Italy from that of Nicholas Jenson of 1470 onwards we come to a closer and more accomplished reproduction of the antique” p. 54, ibid.

[The problem with this common view is that the capitals of Jenson do not look very much like the incised capitals of either Ancient Rome or those of contemporary Italy (such as the ones found in the inscriptions associated with the bottega of Andrea Bregno). Note his distinctive M and N as well as his overly wide H and E. And these are not geometrically proportioned a la Feliciano. The capitals of Griffo (Aldus’ punchcutter) are closer in proportion to those of the late Quattrocento, especially those found on the facade of the Cancelleria in Rome which is dated 1495. My quarrel here is not with Mr. Cramsie, but more with Harry Carter.]

p. 87 “Griffo’s first ‘Aldine’ type was a roman based on Jenson’s type, but with some of the calligraphic qualities removed.”

[This is contrary to the standard view of the relationship between Griffo’s type and Jenson’s in which the former is considered to represent a decisive break from the latter. For instance, A.F. Johnson (following Stanley Morison), says, “It may be noted that the Aldine capitals are inscriptional, like the lettering of classical Rome as found, for instance on the Arch of Trajan [this is in Ancona and is not to be confused with the Column of Trajan in Rome]. The slab serifs of Jenson’s M and of the A and N of other early romans are now discarded.” See Type Designs: Their History and Development (2nd ed.) by A.F. Johnson (London: Grafton & Co., 1959), p. 41. The differences between the two designs are summarized in A View of Early Typography Up to About 1600 by Harry Carter (Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1969), p. 72. “…he [Griffo] drew on pre-Caroline scripts as the inspiration for a more authentic roman type that soon displaced the Jenson version.”]

… but on the previous page Carter says: “There was little left for the makers of Roman type in Italy in the way of designing but to copy Jenson. This they did …” p. 71. Though there are significant differences between Jenson’s and Griffo’s roman types (and these differences are mentioned in my text), is there no sense in which the earlier success of Jenson’s roman provided a framework from which Griffo could make his changes? (Both men worked in Venice.) Admittedly, without a certain knowledge that Griffo took Jenson’s roman as a starting point, the word “based” is too strong, but is there no extent to which Griffo can be thought of as being influenced by Jenson?

fig. 5.8 Writing manual, Ludovico Arrighi, Rome, 1522

[The title La Operina should be included in the caption; the date of publication, although printed as 1522, is now believed to have been 1524. See Scribes and Sources by A.S. Osley (London: Faber & Faber, 1980) and The Practice of Letters by David P. Becker (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard College Library, 1997). The image is cropped at both left and right.]

The image was cropped so that a more detailed view of the letters could be given.

fig. 5.9 Writing manual, Giovanni Palatino, Rome[,] 1561

[The title of the manual should be included: Libro nuovo d’imparare a scrivere; and the author’s name should be given in full: either Giovanni Battista (or Giovambattista) Palatino. Palatino’s book was first published in 1540 (which is not mentioned in the text on pp. 90–91), reprinted in 1543 and 1544, enlarged in 1545, reprinted in 1561, revised yet again in 1566 and then reprinted additional times. The date of 1561 is misleading even if it is accurate to the copy that Cramsie consulted.]

The title, the author’s name in full and the date first published should have been included.

p. 101 “Grandjean” should be “Granjon”

See the response to Blue Pencil’s comment ‘p. 23’ (‘constantcy’) above.

p. 107 “The style of type [of the title] mixes roman and italic… while Gothic is used for the rest of the text. A similar disregard for typographic purity and formal elegance was displayed in the way the text was positioned on the paper.” re: fig. 6.7 Broadside ballad, England, 1634

[Although the imposition is inept, the typography still appears to be “pure”. Roman, italic and gothic are all used in the King James Bible of 1611 (the italic sparingly, see Thessalonians 4:18 to 5:28 or Psalms 19…3 to 21:10). The roman and italic are matched and separated by an image from the gothic (textura). Roman is used in the latter to separate the chorus (“with a hey, etc.”) from the main text of the ballad.

The word “purity” here is used in its most common and general sense, that of “being unmixed” (Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd Edition). What the word referred to was the unusually frequent mixing of roman, italic and gothic in the broadside’s text. What it did not mean was that the typography was in some way ‘inauthentic’ or thoughtlessly executed. Indeed, the description that followed made note of “the very deliberate and consistent mixing of styles” (of type, i.e. roman, italic and gothic). The sense of mixing is heightened by the frequency of the changes (roughly once every two or three (shortish) lines). The changes in the King James Bible of 1611 are far less frequent.

pp. 111–112 the discussion of the romain du roi makes no mention of the role of Louis Simonneau (1654–1727) in engraving the master alphabets (shown in figs. 7.1 and 7.2) that Philippe Grandjean used as the basis for cutting the typeface. He is also left out of the captions of the two figures.

Louis Simonneau was not mentioned because I wasn’t sure to what extent he was just a skilled engraver rather than a ‘designer’ of letters. Did he ‘design’ the letter shapes he engraved? Or did he transpose a set of detailed drawings/instructions that had been provided by members of ‘the little academy’ (Jaugeon, Des Billettes and Truchet) first into his own drawings and then into engravings. I was also unsure to what extent his engravings were used by Grandjean as “master alphabets”. James Mosley has suggested that some contemporary French calligraphy (by Jean-Baptiste Allais) had an influence and describes other influences too (see In spite of what has just been said though, I was too tentative here and I should have mentioned Simonneau in some way.

fig. 7.2 Engraved roman and italic capitals, Imprimerie Royale, Paris, 1716 is too small

They are small, but the grid is visible (an aspect of the letters that is explored in the text) and a strong sense of their character is give by the full-page detail on the previous verso page.

p. 117 Caslon types are discussed here but neither here nor earlier is there any discussion of Dutch types in Holland (e.g. by Christoffel van Dijck, Willem Blaeu, Dirk Voskens or Miklos Kis)

The previous chapter begins with the Dutch Renaissance, placing a particular emphasis on Plantin and some of the types he used. But, it is true, none of the types by those named above are mentioned.

p. 118 “The influence of European typography on British printing… began to be reversed with the publication in 1775 of the first book [The Works of Virgil] to be issued from the press of the British printer John Baskerville (1706–1775).

fig. 7.10 ‘The Works of Virgil’, printed by John Baskerville, Birmingham, 1751

[the date of The Works of Virgil should be 1757]

See the response to Blue Pencil’s comment ‘p. 23’ (‘constantcy’) above. (“1751” is a mistake carried over from a previous publication. “1775” is a typing error (the last two numerals are transposed).)

pp. 119–120 the discussion of the influences on Baskerville’s type is in the right direction in looking to his experiences as a writing master and the effect of writing with a pointed quill and engraving letters in copper; however it fails to follow out this trail to the “Roman Print” in Bickham’s Universal Penman or to the “roman” in Alphabets in All Hands by George Shelley (1710).

It was necessary to show in a single image the kind of flourishing available to the engraver, and then also something of the wide range of letterforms in Bickham’s book (one of which I wanted to hint at the simple flourish that Baskerville incorporated into some of the letters in his italic type, as shown in fig. 7.10). No page showing “Roman Print” did these things as well as the book’s title page, which, as a title page, also carries a certain conceptual weight and recognizability.

p. 120 “The medium of copper engraving allowed the engraver to produce a greater range of thicknesses… and to make more elaborately curled lines since, unlike the penman, the engraver didn’t have to think about running out of dipped ink.”

[This statement underestimates the ability of writing masters to create elaborate flourishing despite the need to periodically re-dip their pens in ink. See the original work of Felix van Sambix (1553–1642) in the Special Collections of the Library of the University of Amsterdam or the work of Jean Larcher (b. 1947).]

The statement referred to is a relative one: “… a greater range … more elaborately curled …”. It compares the extent of flourishing that can be achieved by engraving with that achieved by writing. By saying that engraved forms could be more elaborate than written ones is not to imply that written ones could not be elaborate. Indeed, the ability of writing masters to create elaborate flourishing has been shown very emphatically earlier in the book, on p. 91.

fig. 8.2 Astley’s playbill, 1877

[the date is a mistake since Andrew Ducrow (1793–1842) was deceased before 1877 (and the type styles would have been unfashionable. There is a pencilled note to the left of “ROYAL AMPHITHEATRE” indicating a date of 1827.]

It appears that the incorrect date was given to us by the holder of the image (but we should have spotted the mistake).

[After the Tyndale Bible of 1526 Cramsie ignores the history of blackletter, including the Luther Bible of 1534 and the radical typefaces of Johan Friedrich Unger]

Choosing to tell a comprehensive history through a broad grouping of styles meant that it was not always possible to follow the ripples of those styles as they flowed out across the centuries (though the merits of describing the first splash of a new style still remain.) Sometimes, however, it is possible to trace some of the ripples. The book mentions and illustrates some of the new gothic types designed by Rudolf Koch and others during the first decades of the twentieth century (pp. 146–147); and then also, in the Bauhaus chapter, the importance and continued use of gothic type in Germany during the 1920s (pp. 197–198). Though Johann (cf.) Friedrich Unger was pioneering in his effort to simplify and, to some extent, ‘romanize’ gothic letters at the end of the eighteenth century, he was eclipsed by the much greater activity in the same direction undertaken by Koch and others during the early twentieth century.

p. 124 “The cutting of wooden types was simplified during the second quarter of the century with the invention in America of the router, a mechanical cutter that could cut more quickly and precisely than a craftsman with his knives and gouges.”

[the discussion of wood types is very cursory and it fails not only to acknowledge Darius Wells as the individual who harnessed the router for the purpose of cutting wood type in 1828 but it leaves out the equally important role of William Leavenworth in joining the router to the pantograph in 1834, an act that allowed wood type letters to not only be made in a wide range of sizes but also to be stretched and condensed.]

In order to keep the book focussed on graphic style, explanations of mechanical processes, such as the router, were only given if they helped to explain why a particular design looked the way it did.

and see American Wood Type, 1828–1900: Notes on the Evolution of Decorated and Large Types and Comments on Related Trades of the Period by Rob Roy Kelly (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., 1969). The latter, one of the most important books on the history of type, is not in Cramsie’s bibliography.

I was aware of the Rob Roy Kelly American Wood Type Collection at the University of Texas at Austin, and had come across references to the book mentioned (and seen reproductions of some pages). But no, it was not one of the books I consulted while researching and writing my book (that being the criterion for inclusion in the bibliography). Until the publication last March of a second paperback edition, Kelly’s book was quite rare (having been first published in hardback over 40 years ago, in 1969, and then reprinted in paperback in 1977). It is not something I have come across casually (unlike most of the books in the bibliography) during the decades I have spent browsing shelves of design books (admittedly, mainly in the UK).

[Kelly’s book is not that rare, though the original edition does fetch a high price today. I assume that Mr. Cramsie had access to the British Library, the library at St. Bride’s and other institutions in London, Oxford or the vicinity which would have had a copy of this seminal work. This is a book that should have been hunted down rather than stumbled upon casually.]

fig. 8.6 Sanserif, British ‘One inch’ Ordnance Survey map, 1801

[the sans serif lettering in the map (e.g. ROMAN WALL and SEGEDUNUM) is difficult to locate; the caption or the main text (p. 126) should cite one or more words]

Good suggestion.

p. 126 “Neo classical” [sic] is missing a hyphen [the spelling used elsewhere throughout the book]

See the response to Blue Pencil’s comment ‘p. 23’ (‘constantcy’) above.

fig. 8.8 Ornamented type, Louis John Pouchée, c.1822

fig. 8.9 Woodblock for letter Q shown opposite, c.1822

[the reduction of scale should be noted since in the fig. 8.8 there is one large Q and three smaller ones and in fig. 8.9 the lone Q is a third size; it would also help to indicate to the reader the large size of Pouchée’s letters.

Each of the printed letters is similar to the size that Pouchée printed them. The only significant reduction is the picture of the woodblock, which was made smaller in order for the design of the large Q (which the woodblock had printed) to be appreciated better.

p. 129 “Although Bewick did not invent wood engraving he developed and perfected it to such a degree that printers in Europe and America were also encouraged to exploit its potential.”

[If wood engraving was not invented by Bewick, then who deserves the credit? Joseph Cundall says “It is believed that Bewick was the first who used the wood of the box-tree, which is very hard, and who made his drawings on the butt-ends of the blocks, and cut his lines with the graver pushed from him. He brought into practice what is known as the ‘white line’ in wood-engraving; that is, he produced his effects more by means of many white lines wide apart to give an appearance of lightness, and by giving closer lines to produce a grey effect….” See A Brief History of Wood-Engraving from Its Invention (London: Sampson Low, Marston, & Company, Ltd., 1895).]

“In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries for reasons of economy wood-engraved blocks were often used in place of expensive and less hard-wearing copper plates … [a historian, Thomas] Balston claims William Howell’s Medulla Historiae Anglicanae (1712) to be the first wood-engraved illustration in England …” p. 21, British Wood-Engraved Book Illustration 1904–1940 by Joanna Selborne, paperback edition (London: The British Library and New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2001). And “with the use of the end-grain and the proper graver’s tools, people had begun to talk not of woodcuts but of ‘wood-engravings’. Bewick was not the first to try the new techniques, but he developed and perfected them” p. 49, Nature’s Engraver: A Life of Thomas Bewick by Jenny Uglow (London: Faber & Faber, 2006) (he may, though, have been the originator of the ‘white line’ technique). So the method appears to have evolved primarily as a cheap form of engraving, but as far as I am aware, no individual is known to have ‘invented’ the method.

pp. 133–135 the discussion of lithography makes no mention of Rudolph Ackermann, Charles Joseph Hullmandel (responsible for developing methods for reproducing tonal gradations and creating the effects of soft color washes), Godfroy Englemann (who patented chromolithography in 1937) or Currier & Ives.

See the response to Blue Pencil’s comment ‘p. 43’ above.

fig. 9.2 Gothic modular type, V&J Figgins, c.1850

[These letters are not Gothic but closer in style to 19th c. Tuscans.]

“The Tuscan … was, as Mr [Stanley] Morison points out, invented in the fourth century by Pope Damasus I. Its characteristic is that the points of the serifs are extended and curled, probably bifurcating the stem” p. 33, XIXth Century Ornamented Types and Title Pages by Nicolette [sic] Gray (London: Faber & Faber, 1938). Bifurcated stems, which help to define the modular type shown, can be seen in the decorated initials of many early manuscripts; so too the type’s condensed and rounded letter shapes, some of which can be seen (as indicated in the text) on the carpet page of the Lindisfarne Gospels (fig. 3.4).

[The Tuscan letter was not invented by Pope Damasus but by Filocalus who carved inscriptions honoring Christian martyrs at the Pope’s behest.]

pp. 141–145 the lengthy (and warranted) discussion of William Morris makes no mention of the influence of his calligraphic manuscripts on his activities with the Kelmscott Press; and the images fail to show any of the more common “plain” pages found in Kelmscott books (e.g. The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems by William Morris (1892) or Laudes Beatae Mariae Virginis by Stephen Langton (1896) or even most of the pages of the Kelmscott Chaucer. See]

The book’s discussion of Morris focused on what the above website describes as “the one [work] revealing the most integration between text, ornament and illustration” and the “litmus test which measures one’s response to Morris’s work as a printer”; i.e. Morris’s The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer. Showing a detail of the ornamented and illustrated text page made it possible to bring the viewer closer to each of these characteristic aspects of Arts and Crafts design, and in a way that would not have been possible with a “plain” page.

A mention should have been made of Morris’s calligraphic and illuminated manuscripts (which he worked on intensively between 1870–1875), but a larger discussion of the revival of calligraphy needed to be saved for the next ‘designer’ mentioned, Edward Johnston (the man credited with having done most to revive this craft during this period).

p. 146 “One of the designers whose life as a maker of letters was guided by examples in [Edward] Johnston’s book [Writing & Illuminating & Lettering], was the German type designer Rudolf Koch (1876–1934). It is the first time that the word designer, as distinct from punch-cutter, type founder, printer or publisher can be used with real authority.”

[Frederic W. Goudy and Morris Fuller Benton both preceded Koch as a type designer by nearly a decade.]

The text quoted in the comment above was not meant to mean the first time in history, but rather the first time in the book.

fig. 9.11 Kochschrift, 1910; Maximilian, 1914; Wilhelm-Klingsporschrift, 1926; all designed by Rudolf Koch

[these are all digital versions of Koch’s fonts; they should not be used in this manner as they are not necessarily the same as the metal originals (which is definitely the case for Wilhelm-Klingsporschrift which has been outfitted with a modern k and x among other changes). The use of digital fonts as image for historical typefaces is unethical.]

See the response immediately below.

p. 147 “The first type that Koch designed for the [Klingspor] foundry…—shown here as in all subsequent examples of type or typefaces, in a modern digital version….”

[Cramsie does not explain why he substitutes modern digital versions of fonts for past metal typefaces. There are only two possible explanations: 1. laziness, 2. cheapness. Certainly images of metal typefaces are readily available—and most are far more visually exciting than the bland digital alphabets he offers instead. If anyone doubts this, look at the two volumes of Type: A Visual History of Typefaces & Visual Styles published by Taschen (and vetted elsewhere on Blue Pencil). And for Koch in particular there are some good examples of his typefaces available on Flickr.]

Financial considerations imposed a choice: either use digital fonts or reduce the number of the other images (i.e. other works of design) by the number of metal typefaces that needed to be shown. In order to have a greater number of other images I chose to use digital fonts. Doing so would have been unethical if no mention had been made of the typefaces being digital versions. As the quote in Blue Pencil’s comment makes clear, this I did do, in the main body of text. I also described them as digital fonts in the picture list at the back of the book. Clearly, though, I would have preferred to use images of metal typefaces.

[The cost argument is not a good one. Either the image is the real thing or it is not.]

p. 149 “The poster’s power was most actively demonstrated on the streets of Paris. The city’s boulevards and alleyways became lined with large and vibrantly colourful images.”

[Did Baron Hausmann’s renovation of Paris between 1852 and 1870 which created these boulevards have an influence on the emergence of the poster?]

I’ve not read that it did. A reduction in the tax imposed on public advertising has been put forward as an influence. But it seems that a, if not the, major factor was the new ability to print large colourful posters, as the text mentions.

p. 151 “Henri Van der Velde” should be “Henri van de Velde” (or “Henry van de Velde”); See

It should be “Henry van de Velde”, as it is elsewhere in the book.

p. 155 “Another similar script-based logo is the monogrammatic form used by General Electric (fig. 10.8), whose elaborate initials were encircled and first placed on various electrical appliances in 1907.”

[the second logo in fig. 10.8 shows an encircled GE dated 1900]

The sentence is misleading. It should read “encircled in 1900 and first placed on various …”.

fig. 10.14 ‘Scottish Musical Review’ poster designed by Charles Rennie Mackkintosh, 1896

[there are other images that could better represent Mackintosh than this one, most notably something related to Miss Cranston’s Tea Room]

… though in choosing this one a very direct comparison could be made with Moser’s similar ‘Ver Sacrum’ poster shown on the opposite page. The comparison makes clear the geometric aspect that developed within Art Nouveau. This serves the book’s central aim of outlining styles rather than representing the work of particular individuals.

p. 161 It is disappointing that the only image representing Peter Behrens and his work for AEG, beyond iterations of the logo, is a detail of the facade of the AEG turbine factory that focuses on the logo (thus cropping out the innovative features of the building). A catalogue page showing his product design as well as his use of proto-grids and his own typeface would have been more effective.

The innovative features of the building were not germane to the discussion of graphic style in this chapter. Showing the logo on the building helped to illustrate what has been described as the first corporate identity programme. It also helped to show how Behrens’s role extended beyond AEG’s graphic design (into the company’s architecture and industrial design). Both points are mentioned in the text.

fig. 12.8 ‘Blast’ magazine cover and inside designed by Wyndham Lewis, 1914

[who is Boehm? (see the inside page): “BLAST / pasty shadow cast by gigantic Boehm” and what is Putney? “…culminating in/ PURGATORY OF / PUTNEY”]

Joseph Edgar Boehm (1834–1890) was a sculptor of statues and busts, and was commissioned to produce many large public works (of royalty and other establishment figures) during the last decades of the nineteenth century especially.

Putney is a middle-class suburb of London (on the south side of the river Thames).

[Thanks for the explanations.]

p. 180 there are no images to accompany the discussion of Marcel Duchamp’s work

The focus on images of graphic design precluded the inclusion of images of fine art. Had it been possible to include the latter I would have shown this image of Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’:


p. 183 there are no images of De Stijl paintings to accompany the discussion of the work of Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg

See the response immediately above. ‘Broadway Boogie Woogie’ (1942–1943) would have accompanied the description of Mondrian spending “the remaining 25 years of his life exploring the nuances of rectangular abstraction” (p. 184):


The sequencing of chapter 13 Form and Function: Bauhaus & the New Typography, c.1919–c.1933 [why the circas?] and chapter 14 The Weight of Tradition: Traditional Typography, c.1910–1947 is odd; the initial date of the latter seems arbitrary as there is no single image or event in the text tied to it.

The main period (indicated by the dates) discussed in chapter 13 is weighted slightly earlier than the main period in chapter 14. This determined the order of the two chapters (despite the fact that the starting date of 13 is later than the starting date of 14). It was also fitting that chapter 12, the chapter on Modernism (the first wave of), was followed by a chapter on the Bauhaus, a further development of Modernism, and one in which a number of the individuals from the earlier chapter were involved.

The circas are used because although 1919–1933 is the main period discussed in the chapter, the Bauhaus style does not fit neatly into these dates. Lyonel Feininger’s illustration for the Bauhaus manifesto of 1919 (fig. 13.3), for example, needs to be shown, but it is expressionistic (as many of the school’s early works were) not a Bauhaus work proper. Conversely, Jan Tschichold’s exhibition poster of 1937 (fig. 13.19) falls outside the main period under discussion, yet it says something important about the style (minimalism and asymmetry) and about one of the ways a leading practitioner of New Typography applied the style’s precepts.

Both of the dates defining chapter 14 have circas (one of them has been left off in Blue Pencil’s comment). The first date is guided by the date of the earliest work to be shown in the chapter, Bruce Rogers’s design of The Compleat Angler (fig. 14.2) which was published in 1909.

p. 189 there is no mention of the two schools —the Academy of Fine Art (Sächsiche Hochschule für Bildende Kunst) and the School of Applied Arts (Sächsische Kunstgewerbeschule) in Weimar—that were merged to form the Bauhaus. This is important since it helps explain the tension at the Bauhaus in the early years.

There were so many sources of tension at the Bauhaus, especially while in Weimar. It is difficult to know to what extent this particular source affected the school’s style of design. Other sources had a more definite effect – e.g. the awkward dominance of Johannes Itten; the need to appease the local government, which funded the school – and so they are discussed.

p. 192 “The once sacred slogan of ‘art and craft’ had now given way to the more modern mantra of Art and Industry—a New Unity.”

[“…the motto in 1919 had been ‘Art and craft—a new unity’.” See Bauhaus, 1919–1933 by Magdalena Droste (Cologne: Taschen, 2002), p. 58]

The 1919 phrase “Art and craft – a new unity” seems not to have been used as prominently as the later 1923 phrase “Art and industry [or technology] – a new unity”. The former quote appears in a few publications (as well as Droste’s above, see Bauhaus edited by Jeannine Fiedler and Peter Feierabend (Cologne: Könemann, 1999), p. 80), but neither book gives the source of the quote. By contrast, the later phrase is quoted in many publications and frequently sourced to Walter Gropius’s opening speech at the Bauhaus exhibition of 1923. It is also a phrase that is linked to an important change in direction at the school, which brought about the style of graphic design we now associate with the Bauhaus.

[My point was that by not including the earlier slogan, no matter how commonly used, the later one loses some of its impact.]

pp. 188–201 there is no showing of any of the Bauhaus’ logos; their evolution encapsulates that of the school itself

The Bauhaus logos are not as indicative of the Bauhaus style (of graphic design) as the two logos that are shown on each of the letterheads mentioned below.

[The transformation of the logos shows the school changing from an expressionist and crafts-oriented curriculum to a more rational and industrial one. See pp. 36 (fig. 12—used 1919–1921), 44 (fig. 14—by Oskar Schlemmer, 1922) in Bauhaus by Hans Wingler (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1969) and pp. 68 & 75 (figs. 54, 65–66—by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, 1923) in Das A und O des Bauhauses (Leipzig: Bauhaus-Archiv, Edition Leipzig, 1995).]

figs. 13.5 Letterhead designed by László Moholy-Nagy, 1923 and 13.9 Bauhaus letterhead designed by Herbert Bayer, 1927 should be grouped together; also the Moholy-Nagy letterhead should be identified as being for the Bauhaus

Grouping the letterheads together would break the link between one of the letterheads and its relevant text. (See the latter half of the response to Blue Pencil’s comment ‘fig. 2.6’ above.) Separating them by only a single spread made it easy enough for the reader to compare the two.

p. 12 “Within graphic design as a whole, there are several areas with special attributes that set them apart from all others. To include them here would either have amounted to a series of token gestures or else have required the book to be extended dramatically. The items are as follows: information graphics….”

[Despite this caveat the book does include sporadic examples of information graphics such as fig. 13.17 Human chart from ‘International Picture Language’ by Otto Neurath, 1936 and several maps.]

These few exceptions were judged to be important enough to the styles discussed for the caveat not to be followed. As exceptions they prove the rule set out in the introduction.

p. 201 “hypocracy” should be “hypocrisy”

See the response to Blue Pencil’s comment ‘p. 23’ (‘constantcy’) above.

p. 201 “It is telling in its ignorance and hypocracy [sic] that long before the Nazis banned nearly all Modern art for being ‘un-German’, ‘Jewish’ and ‘Bolshevist’… the symbol they chose to represent their nationalist cause was a black geometric shape, the swastika… set on a white circle in a red rectangle. They are a combination of elements that would not have looked out of place on an early Bauhaus letterhead.”

[This discussion of the swastika ignores the modernist strain in Nazism as exemplified by Albert Speer and Hitler himself; as well as the history of the Nazi appropriation of the venerable symbol and its new design by Wilhelm Deffke. Among many sources, see The Swastika: Symbol Beyond Redemption? by Steven Heller (New York: Allworth Communications, Inc., 2000), pp. 67–68 which is not included in the bibliography. Also, the swastika is not pictured in any of its iterations.]

If the above comment is taken to mean “this discussion of the swastika ignores the modernist strain in Nazism” full stop (or ‘period’), it should be made clear that the discussion actually describes an example of “the modernist strain in Nazism”. This ancient symbol, the swastika, could have been rendered by the Nazis in all kinds of different ways. It needn’t have been starkly geometric, or (in its most common iteration) combined with other geometric shapes, or set within the colour combination of black, white and red. The fact that it contained each of these elements is an example of a “modernist strain”.

It is the case, though, that the text did not go on to discuss modernist elements in other kinds of Nazi symbolism, be they graphic, architectural, cinematic, etc. Nor did it discuss the history of the Nazi appropriation of the swastika. The purpose of the chapter was to describe the nature of the style of Bauhaus graphic design and the New Typography. Few other Nazi-related avenues would have helped to do this.

Regarding Wilhelm Deffke, there are rival claims for the origins and design of the various swastikas used by the Nazis. This chapter on the Bauhaus and New Typography was not the place to discuss these claims.

As mentioned in the response to Blue Pencil’s comment ‘p. 124’, the sole criterion for inclusion in the bibliography was that a source had been referred to during the process of research and writing. I’m afraid I didn’t refer to Heller’s book (for the reason mentioned in the paragraphs above).

I did not include a picture of the swastika, in any form, because I thought the text could be understood well enough without one.

pp. 201–202 images of the work of Jan Tschichold are limited to the prospectus for Die neue Typographie and the 1937 konstruktivisten exhibition poster; an example of his pre-1925 calligraphic and typographic work would have been instructive

Two more images of Jan Tschichold’s work are included in the next chapter. Both help to describe his move away from the New Typography, which fits with the larger discussion of the graphic style focused on in that chapter. To include even more images of Tschichold’s work would certainly help the reader get a fuller understanding of Tschichold, but not of the development of the Bauhaus and the New Typography necessarily. It would also place a far greater emphasis on this one designer than on any other in the book.

p. 202 “…[the prospectus for Die neue Typographie, fig. 13.18] is laid out asymmetrically in neat columns. And yet the short, thick vertical bar and the bottom column of text both sit outside the two-column grid established by the main text above. By subtly breaking out of a clear vertical alignment, Tschichold breathed life into an otherwise entirely formulaic design.”

[this analysis of the prospectus betrays a limited understanding of the subtleties at work in Jan Tschichold’s designs. In the prospectus there is only one column (justified) for the main text in the design. The right column (flush left, rag right) is a list of the book’s contents and the bottom column (justified) provides edition and production information about the book along with price. The latter is positioned to balance the other two columns (note that its width is determined by the length of the last line of the main text column). The short vertical bar is positioned between the first two columns and placed to call attention to the final paragraph of the main text which describes the intended audience for the book (the bar also signals that this is the end of the text and that it does not continue in the block of text below). The bar is echoed visually by Tschichold’s signature running vertically up the right side. The flush left/rag right contents column is “justified” by this signature, the block of production text, and the heading ‘Vozugs-Angebot’ with a thick rule at the upper right. All together, this prospectus is an incredibly subtle and sophisticated design that does not use a grid of any kind other than the inevitable one associated with a block or column of text.]

It is not practical to describe all of the formal aspects of each design that appears in this book. Had such descriptions been given, the book would have been vast (and very repetitive). Moreover, many of the designs appear in the book because they allow a specific point to be made about a particular style of graphic design. This was the case with Tschichold’s prospectus. Rather than explain the design in detail (including the subtleties set out in Blue Pencil’s comment above), I wanted to make a point about the inventiveness that could be brought to even quite a rigid Bauhausian scheme, and then also a point about how well Tschichold had executed this example of inventiveness.

Most designers, I contend, would be inclined to fit the three main kinds of text that make up the prospectus within two columns (which are only described loosely as a grid). They would do this either by having the edition and production information placed in the thin right-hand column (and then adjust the position, size and leading of the text in the left-hand column so that it balanced the whole design), or they would have placed the text at the bottom of the left-hand column, underneath the main text. That Tschichold did neither, and that his alternative solution of a third column was so well crafted, are worth pointing out. And by pointing this out without any other explanations of the design, the reader is better able to take on board both of the points mentioned above.

p. 203 “It is a study in contrasting pairs: the pair of rectangles, large and small, created by a thin bisecting horizontal line; the pair of circles, large grey [sic] and tiny black above; the pair of arrangements of small, light text, a single line above and a thin column below; and, lastly, the pair of lines of bold text in contrasting sizes. None of them derived their character from any overarching rationale, there is no apparent formula guiding their placement, and yet the tension generated between them and, also, between them and the edges of the poster, creates a dynamic harmony that reverberates throughout.”

[This is another inadequate analysis, one that is focused too much on what is on the surface. The description of pairs is fine (though the larger circle is yellow and not gray), but there are complex reasons why each item is placed where it is. There is no master grid (though Kimberly Elam has diagrammed the poster in Geometry of Design (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2006), p. 66. The yellow circle’s left edge aligns with the center line of the poster; the distance from the black dot to the bottom of the poster is the same as the distance from the top of the poster to the thin horizontal line; the black dot is aligned with the center of the yellow circle; the text following it provides the basis for the alignment and position of the column of names (which Tschichold makes sure does not extend beyond the word ‘konstruktivisten’; the distance between the ‘kunsthalle basel’ text is the basis for the other distances: twice as much for the date information following the black dot between it and the edge of the yellow circle and three times as much for the distance between the thin horizontal line and the column of names below it; the line length of the venue is half that of the title as well as the distance it is placed from the yellow circle; the title is located at the midpoint of the yellow circle (sitting on it as a baseline); the distance from the x-height of the title to the line matches the distance from the line to the x-height of the venue; and so on…. There is no system, only a careful calibration of ratios (and of weights of type and line) that make this poster so mesmerizing.]

As with the prospectus (see the response to comment ‘p. 202’ above), the purpose of the description of Tschichold’s poster was to highlight one particular facet of the design (because doing so served the central aim of the book: the description of graphic styles). This facet was not the series of alignments and spatial equivalences found in various parts of the poster. As Blue Pencil’s comment mentions, these have already been pointed out by others (though often incorrectly, as some are in the comment also – see the end of this response). This kind of analysis – pointing out alignments and spatial equivalences – has also featured elsewhere in the book (e.g. for fig. 5.14 on p. 96; for fig. 9.9 on pp. 144–145; for fig. 19.6 on p. 303). Because this analysis has been done by others, and because a similar kind of analysis appears elsewhere in the book, a different kind of analysis was undertaken: a descriptive overview of the elements that made up the poster.

Blue Pencil’s comment describes this overview of elements as focusing “too much on what is on the surface”, a description that might imply this analysis was superficial (in the derogatory sense of the word, not the literal one). However, in Willi Kunz’s book Typography: Macro- and Microaesthetics (Sulgen, Switzerland: Verlag Niggli AG, 1998) an even-handed distinction is made between this kind of large-scale analysis and the more detailed, small-scale analysis of such things as alignments and equivalences. Kunz distinguishes the “macroaesthetic” (in this instance, the overview of elements), from the “microaesthetic” (alignments and equivalences), but in doing so he doesn’t privilege one over the other. Neither is considered to be more superficial than the other.

With that said, in some ways the macroaesthetic overview of elements in Tschichold’s poster could be considered to be more valuable than the microaesthetic description of the alignments and equivalences. Never before (as far as I know) has the poster been described as a series of contrasting pairs, despite its having been reproduced as often as any other work in graphic design histories (Tschichold being among the most written about of all graphic designers). So this description has particular value because it is original. It came from looking closely at the poster and thinking about how its design could be explained in a simple way, but also in a way that planted a definite concept (the series of contrasting pairs) in the mind of the reader. Not only does this help readers see the poster in a new way, it also provides them with an approach that could be applied elsewhere. Teachers could use the description as a simple exercise to give to students (‘create a design out of a series of contrasting pairs’), and designers could take it as a starting point for a job they were working on. This description is just one of many ‘original’ descriptions that distinguish this book from other histories.

An outline of the mistaken alignments and equivalences contained in Blue Pencil’s comment (as well as in Kimberly Elam’s book, Richard Hollis’s book Swiss Graphic Design (London: Laurence King, 2006) p. 115, and others): “the black dot is aligned with the centre of the yellow circle”: as the diagram below shows, the black dot is placed to the right of the centre of the circle; its position is perhaps a result of the adjacent text and the list of names below aligning with the right vertical edge of the first letter ‘i’ in “konstruktivisten”.


“the distance between the ‘kunsthalle basel’ text … and the column of names below it”: unfortunately, I wasn’t sure what the description within this text was referring to.

“the line length of the venue is half that of … the distance it is placed from the yellow circle”: the line length is greater than half this distance.


“the title is located at the midpoint of the yellow circle (sitting on it as a baseline)”: the baseline is lower than the midpoint of the yellow circle; the title is centred visually, not mathematically.


fig. 13.20 Futura roman and italic, Paul Renner, 1927–30 the examples are digital; Futura came out in 1927 and the oblique was issued in 1930

And described as such in the main text, and then later in the picture list towards the back of the book. See the response to Blue Pencil’s comment ‘p. 147’ above.

chapter 14 The Weight of Tradition: Traditional Typography c.1910–1947

[why begin with 1910 and end with 1947? 1910 can be justified as the date that ATF Bodoni was released, but Cramsie makes no mention of the typeface or Morris Fuller Benton, its designer, in his text. 1947 is clearly the year that Tschichold went to work for Penguin Books but 1949, the date of his departure, would make more sense as an end date. However, there are other end dates that might make more sense: 1951, the year of the Books for Our Time exhibition and catalogue or 1955, the year of the publication of Libor Librorum, a collection of page designs from the leading printers and book designers of the day in Europe and America.]

For the explanation of the beginning date see the end of the response to Blue Pencil’s comment ‘chapter 13’ above.

[It seems odd to base the dates in the title of a chapter on the material illustrated in the chapter rather than on the key aspects of the content covered. Thus, should a chapter on World War II bear the dates c.1938–1945 if a photograph of the Anschluss, the German annexation of Austria, is shown?]

p. 205 “…the infamous Armory Show… which toured three eastern states in 1913, is remembered as much for the reaction it provoked as for the art it displayed. On the final night in Chicago….”

[Chicago is not in an eastern state]

This description (by inference, of Illinois being an eastern state) fits the criterion for defining which states make up the Eastern United States, i.e. those states that lie east of the Mississippi (as Illinois does).

[This is certainly not what an “eastern state” means to an American. Illinois is considered part of the Midwest which begins with the Ohio River that demarcates Pennsylvania and Ohio.]

p. 206 “The first composing machine to be developed sufficiently for commercial use was invented in the United States by a young German émigré, Ottmar Mergenthaler (1854–99), during the 1890s.”

“1890s” should have been 1880s. See the response to Blue Pencil’s comment ‘p. 23’ (‘constantcy’) above.

p. 206 “Mergenthaler’s descriptively named Linotype (line-of-type) machine was patented in 1884 and first used commercially in 1886 by the New York Tribune….”

[these dates are confusing]

See the response immediately above.

p. 206 “Both kinds of composing machine [Linotype and Monotype] provided the revival of traditional typography, which the Arts and Crafts [movement] had started, with a new impetus.”

[This is not true. Although each composing machine company needed new types, for decades their designs were mired in mediocrity and the machines were shunned by those in book publishing. It was not until 1913 that Monotype issued Imprint and Plantin, the company’s first revival; and not until 1915 that Mergenthaler Linotype produced Benedictine, its first historical design. Meanwhile Frederic W. Goudy was already doing new historical typefaces (Kennerley Old Style 1911 and Goudy Lanston 1912) and ATF had issued Bodoni in 1910 and Cloister (based on Jenson’s type) in 1913. ATF followed those with Baskerville in 1915 (roman matrices from Stephenson Blake and an original italic) and Garamond (really Jannon) in 1919. Stanley Morison’s ballyhooed “program” of revivals did not begin until 1922 with Garamond (Jannon again) in 1922 and Poliphilus in 1923. English Linotype belatedly joined the revival trend with Granjon (really Garamond) in 1929 and Estienne in 1930.]

The text quoted above describes “a new impetus”, but not an immediate one. The Monotype and Linotype companies did not start to issue new historical revivals straightaway, but the combined range of historical types they produced from 1913 (and made available to many international markets) was wider than that of any other company, ATF included. (The Monotype Corporation’s output included Plantin (1915), Bodoni (1922), Garamond (1922), Baskerville (1923), Blado (1923), Poliphilus (1923), Fournier (1925), Bembo (1929), Bell (1932), Walbaum (1933) and Ehrhardt (1937); and the company could boast offices in France, Germany, Holland, Scandinavia, Russia, Australia and India.) In Robin Kinross’s Modern Typography (London: Hyphen Press, 1992) the effect of these new design revivals is described in terms of a revolution: “The revolution brought to the trade by the typographers [here meaning producers of type generally] was to be a historical (or historicist) one: the best old typefaces, machine composed, and used in a historically-conscious manner” (p. 57). These designs were linked to a technology – machine composition – that came to dominate newspaper, periodical and book printing (this last, if not straightaway, then soon enough to do so decisively). Even Bruce Rogers, ever punctilious in matters relating to fine book printing, admitted in 1917 that “recent developments in the machines themselves now permit the possibility of doing quite as good work as by the older and slower method” (p. 209, A History of Cambridge University Press. Vol. 3 by David McKitterick (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004)); and from the same publication: “The success of Monotype in book printing during the 1920s …” and then “… Monotype seized, and kept, most of the major book printing in Britain. In America … Linotype was much more successful in this business” (p. 245).

Though Goudy started to make historical types a few years before Monotype, at that time he was still guided, to some degree, by the influence of the Arts and Crafts movement. (In Letters of Credit (London: Gordon Fraser, 1986) Walter Tracy confirms a link, albeit a weak one, between the design of Kennerley and some of Nicholas Jenson’s type, which earlier had influenced the design of William Morris’s ‘Golden’ type.) Therefore, Goudy’s early historical type can be thought of as a continuation of the Arts and Crafts revival.

ATF was formed in 1892 by 23 US type foundries to counter the threat posed by the new Linotype and Monotype machines. In this way, the historical type that ATF produced before 1913 – Bodoni – was not unrelated to (and, some would argue, was part of) the impetus provided by the new composing machines.

[British writers tend to downplay or ignore the contributions of American typefoundries and type designers in favor of the accomplishments of the Monotype Corporation. Goudy’s typefaces (Kennerley, Forum, Hadrian, Goudy Oldstyle) are much more than Arts & Crafts revivals, though there is no doubt that Goudy was a product of that movement. They are much more subtle in design than the Jenson copies done by Morris, Ricketts et al. Although ATF did not issue as many historical revivals as did the Monotype Corporation, those it did do preceded those by the English company. ATF was responsible for Bodoni (1910), Cloister (Jenson) (1913), Garamond (1917), Baskerville (1915—roman imported from Stephenson Blake, italic by Morris Fuller Benton), and Bulmer (1928).]

pp. 207–208 the discussion of the work of Bruce Rogers makes no mention of the concept of allusive book design

Admittedly, I am unaware of this concept.

[This concept, that book design should reflect the period in which a book was originally written, was commonly discussed during Rogers’ lifetime. It was a subject of much debate, especially as it was baldly interpreted by others as “period typography”. See pp. 22 and 176 of Paragraphs on Printing (Mount Vernon, New York: William E. Rudge’s Sons, 1943), where Rogers is somewhat embarrassed by the concept as applied to his early work, and pp. 29–30 of Bruce Rogers: A Life in Letters, 1870–1957 by Joseph Blumenthal (Austin: W. Thomas Taylor, 1989) who says that Rogers’ “original and subtle manipulation of type always raised his books beyond the imitative.” Rogers wrote that “Making an ‘allusive’ format for a book—that is, casting it in the style of the period of the original text—is in a small way something like planning the stage setting for a play.” p. 22 of Paragraphs on Printing. For the crude concept of period typography see Fashions in American Typography, 1780 to 1930 with brief illustrated stories of the life and environment of the American people in seven periods, and demonstrations of E.G.G.’s fresh note American period typography by Edmund E. Gress (New York: Harper Brothers, 1931).]

p. 208 “…Goudy came to learn the subtleties of type design through the hand-craft traditions of the private press.”

[This is not true. Goudy learned type design through his long experience as a commercial artist specializing in lettering which preceded his involvement with private presses.]

In the aforementioned Letters of Credit (London: Gordon Fraser, 1986), Walter Tracy identifies Goudy’s first notable type design as being Pabst roman, made in 1902, the year before Goudy set up the Village Press. Tracy then goes on to say “It is not a distinguished type, but it is a pleasant one” and “that as a text type in advertising the face made a good effect, so long as only a few capitals were present” (p. 129). Many of the types Goudy made subsequently, especially after starting the Village Letter Foundery in 1911, progressively receive less qualified praise from Tracy: Monotype 38-E (1908) “an undistinguished design, but … He now understood the essential difference between a piece of lettering drawn for a specific context and an alphabet whose twenty-six components would be used in an infinity of combinations” (p. 134); Kennerley Old Style (1911) “not one of Goudy’s greatest; but it was a remarkable achievement for its time” (p. 136); Goudy Lanston (1912, initially named Goudy Old Style) “positive evidence of Goudy’s ability as a type designer … better than the types being produced in Europe at that time” (p. 138); and Goudy Text (1928) “wholly admirable” (p. 133). Not all people would agree with Tracy’s every assessment of the types he discusses; nevertheless, he, like others, identifies a general improvement that coincides with Goudy having his own press and foundry. It appears that there is a distinction between what Goudy learnt as a commercial artist specializing in lettering on the one hand, and the subtleties of type design (not just how to design metal type but, in particular, the subtleties within this process) he learnt by having his own press and foundry on the other.

[The Village Press was not the first private press set up by Goudy. He established the Booklet Press in 1894, renaming it the Camelot Press later that year. See pp. 127–128 in American Book Design and William Morris by Susan Otis Thompson (New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press and London: The British Library, 1996 expanded edition). Goudy designed his first typeface, named Camelot after the press, in 1897. As to the assessment of Goudy’s maturation as a type designer, I would attribute it more to his increased contact with incunabula and to his visit to Italy in 1910 more than to his experience running a private press.]

p. 208 Cramsie (like many others) does not fully understand the impact and importance of Goudy during his lifetime. Through his personality and work he spread the Morrisian gospel throughout the United States and his typefaces, especially Goudy Old Style (ATF, 1915), were used not only in books but in magazines and advertising. It may have been the first original design of the 20th c. to be so widely dispersed, preceding Futura, Times New Roman and Helvetica.

I am aware that Goudy was a very prominent figure in US printing and type design (the text states: “[Bruce] Rogers may well have been the most accomplished book designer, but as a designer of type he was much less broadly influential than … Goudy”, p. 208), but perhaps I do not appreciate the full extent of his importance there.

The last three typefaces mentioned in Blue Pencil’s comment above may have been preceded by Goudy Old Style; nevertheless their large international appeal, which Goudy Old Style never had to the same extent, marks them out.

[Goudy Oldstyle was not only exceedingly popular in the United States (ATF issued an elaborate 124-page special specimen book in 1927) but also in England. It was available in hot metal from Lanston Monotype and later Intertype. That it was not equally popular in Europe was due to the discrepancy of Anglo-American and Continental body sizes. Futura overcame this problem because Bauer, with an office in New York, manufactured the face for both markets. The large international appeal of both Times Roman (Times New Roman for Monotype Corporation) and Helvetica did not occur immediately for either. As I have written elsewhere, Helvetica was not widely popular in the United States until 1968. The key to the widespread popularity of it and Times Roman was the advent of photocomposition in the 1960s that solved the problem of competing body sizes for foundry type as well as the problem of shifting from composing machines for text type to foundry type for display.]

fig. 14.4 Examples of typefaces designed by Frederic Goudy: Kennerley [Old Style], 1911; Goudy Old Style, 1915; Deepdene, 1927 these are all digital versions

And described as such in the main text, and then later in the picture list. See the response to Blue Pencil’s comment ‘p. 147’.

fig. 14.7 Perpetua roman and titling these are digital renditions; Perpetua is notoriously “thin” in its digital incarnation

See response above.

fig. 14.9 New Johnston, 1979 why a digital rendition of New Johnston (a film typeface) rather than the original? Eiichi Kono of Banks & Miles was the designer. See

This was made from scans of Eiichi Kono’s designs. (I was fortunate enough to be taught by Eiichi and work with him for almost a decade.)

p. 210 “Thus, the series of typefaces released by the Monotype Corporation during the 1920s and 1930s pay tribute to some of the greatest names in Western printing: Plantin, Caslon, Baskerville and Bodoni.”

[These dates are wrong. Plantin was released 1913 by the Monotype Corporation; Sol Hess had designed a Caslon as early as 1903 for Lanston Monotype (and presumably used by the English company) and the company released its famous Caslon 337 (subsequently taken up by the Monotype Corporation) in 1915; Lanston Monotype did Bodoni 175 in 1911 and Monotype Corporation adapted Benton’s ATF Bodoni in 1930; and the Monotype Corporation, following ATF’s lead, issued a Baskerville in 1923. The famous series of typefaces done by the Monotype Corporation in the 1920s and 1930s were based on the work of Jannon (Garamond), Baskerville, Griffo (Poliphilus and Bembo), Fournier, Jenson (but using Rogers’ Centaur), Bell, Bulmer (but following the lead of ATF), and Van Dijck.]

One of the dates is wrong. The period mentioned in the text, “the 1920s and 1930s”, relates to typefaces released by “the Monotype Corporation”, the British arm of “Lanston Monotype” (the US company). (The application of these well-established but shortened names is made clear in the text.) The Monotype Corporation first released Caslon (at least, a typeface with that name), Baskerville and Bodoni in 1920, 1923, and 1921/1922 respectively. (See ‘One Hundred Years of Type Making’, Monotype Recorder, centenary issue, no. 10, 1997 (Redhill, Surrey: Monotype Typography, 1997). However, Plantin (series 110) was released in 1913, so it should not have been included.

Both companies, Lanston Monotype and the Monotype Corporation, issued the first adaptation of Caslon in 1903, but they called it Old Face (series 20).

In the edition of the Monotype Recorder cited above “Monotype Bodoni” is listed as having been issued in 1922. An earlier edition of the same magazine, titled ‘Fifty Years of Type-cutting 1900-1950’ (vol. 39, no. 2, Autumn 1950) says Bodoni No. 3 (series 135) was issued in 1921. Perhaps the discrepancy lies in the difference between the ‘releasing’ of a typeface (i.e. putting on sale) and the ‘cutting’ of a typeface (i.e. when it was made)?

p. 210 “A similar genesis lay behind Gill’s next and most popular typeface, the eponymous Gill Sans (fig. 14.11) which, though begun sometime after Perpetua, was released several years before it in 1929.”

[This is a confusing sentence. There is no date given for Perpetua here (or in fig. 14.7) though it is pointed out that the commission was given to Gill in 1924. Perpetua was begun in 1925 and released in 1929. Gill Sans was released in 1928. (No date is given in fig. 14.11.)]

The illustration of Gill Sans, fig. 14.11, shows a digital version of the capitals and lowercase in a regular weight. The metal equivalents were issued in 1929 (series 262). An earlier titling face (not illustrated), which was the first Gill Sans design, had been issued in 1928.

The illustration of Perpetua, fig. 14.7, shows a digital version of the capitals, lowercase and a titling face. The metal equivalents of the capitals and lowercase were issued in 1929 (series 239) and the titling in 1928 (series 258). But the capitals and lowercase were only issued in a single size (13 pt). Other sizes were added over the next two or three years. This certainly should have been made clearer.

fig. 14.11 Gill Sans another digital version

See the response to Blue Pencil’s comment ‘p. 147’ above.

p. 211 “Following the addition of new weights and widths, it [Johnston Railway Sans] quickly became the most comprehensive lettering of its kind, and was later looked on as a model not only for other subway systems but for transport lettering in general.”

[what other subway systems?]

This was meant in the general sense of adopting an exclusive, custom made sanserif designed for a particular use (or uses), e.g. signage. Many large subway systems – Amsterdam, Berlin, Hong Kong, Paris and others – have taken the same approach. Likewise several airports and the road signage in a number of countries.

p. 214 “It has been suggested that a printed sample of a type designed decades earlier, in 1904, by a young American polymath, Starling Burgess (1878–1947), was the source of Monotype’s design [of Times New Roman]…. The Burgess theory has created enough doubt for The Times newspaper itself to describe its earlier type as being designed by Stanley Morison, Victor Lardent and ‘possibly Starling Burgess’.”

[There is no mention of Mike Parker, the originator of the Burgess theory, here or in the notes or the bibliography. The source of the theory is “W. Starling Burgess, Type Designer?” by Mike Parker in Printing History 31/32 (1994), pp. 52-108.]

See the response to Blue Pencil’s comment ‘p. 43’ above.

p. 216 as usual the images of Tschichold’s work for Penguin that are shown are title pages rather than interiors which was where his impact was greatest

Ruari McLean (who worked at Penguin with Tschichold and did more than any other person to bring Tschichold’s work and writing to an English-speaking audience) includes an outline of Tschichold’s Penguin work in Jan Tschichold: Typographer (Boston, MA: David R. Godine, 1975). He describes Tschichold’s main impact on the “interiors” (Blue Pencil’s word) as being an overall increase in the standard of composition. This was achieved partly through Tschichold’s formulation of the Penguin Composition Rules (condensed into only four pages), which, alongside a set of precise specifications and corrections for a certain number of books (around 500), “disturbed (but generally failed to wake up) nearly every major printing firm in Britain” (p. 89). As well as insisting on such details as the spacing of capitals, Tschichold also changed the typeface in many books (though he allowed Times, which had been standard on his arrival, to remain prominent). These changes combined with what Tschichold himself described as “a carefully considered overall re-styling” so that together his changes (again, in his words) “completely altered the appearance of Penguins” (p. 146, ibid.).

Tschichold’s time at Penguin was characterized by great industriousness (in getting through a punishing work load) and tenacity (in pushing through his changes), but few people who compare the standard setting of Penguin books immediately before and after his two-year tenure would describe the appearance of the interiors as being “completely altered”. At least, not with regard to their basic graphic style. As Christopher Burke has written “Only rarely did asymmetric layout or sanserif letterforms resurface in Tschichold’s Penguin work” p. 296, Active Literature: Jan Tschichold and New Typography by Christopher Burke (London: Hyphen Press, 2007). The continued classicism of his changes (predominantly historical seriffed faces, symmetrical layouts and justified text) constituted a thorough refinement of the design rather than a clear change of graphic style. In the opinion of Phil Bains, who has looked back at 70 years of Penguin paperbacks, some of the “covers and the many title pages Tschichold designed are where his absolute mastery of spatial arrangement shows through most clearly” p. 51, Penguin by Design by Phil Baines (London: Penguin Books, 2005). It is for this reason that so many writers have focused on them.

The cover of the prospectus for The Pelican History of Art (fig. 14.20) – while it is graphically similar to a title page (as Blue Pencil’s comment describes it), it is not one – is an example of one of these more graphically clear expressions of mastery. It also shows a kind of design that is sometimes called ‘New Traditionalism’, in which ‘traditional’ elements are arranged with a modern sense of space. In doing so it serves the main aim of the book (to outline graphic styles) more effectively than one of Tschichold’s typical text pages.

[I still contend that Tschichold’s impact on book design was due more to his interiors than to his covers. McLean’s comment says as much as well as the continued popularity of the Penguin Composition Rules. The problem is that showing text pages is not sexy.]

p. 216 why include the work of Reynolds Stone and yet leave out the book designs of W.A. Dwiggins for Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.?

Because the subject (the revival of the woodcut) could be highlighted with the mention of a single individual, and also, but to a lesser extent, because Dwiggins is one of those designers whose work rarely sits four-square within a single style (though he does receive a mention in the introduction).

The added advantage of choosing Stone was that a link could be made to things other than books included elsewhere in the book (specifically the masthead of The Times newspaper, fig. 14.16). Furthermore, Stone’s designs were at one time uniquely prominent (appearing on British money, stamps as well as one of its best selling newspapers), yet his name, like that of all graphic designers, was unknown to most people, a point that could then be made in the text.

[My comment about Stone vs. Dwiggins was part of my intention to point out the British-centric aspect of The Story of Graphic Design. (This is not a bad thing, just something that potential readers need to be aware of.) Stone’s visibility in the United States and on the Continent was minimal. Dwiggins has had the far wider impact. He does not fit into any easy styles or themes, but that is not sufficient reason to skip lightly over him as many—not just Mr. Cramsie—have done.]

fig. 15.4 Dutch Cable Factory catalogue designed by Piet Zwart, 1928

[This is not the familiar image from the Nederlandsche Kabelfabriek (NKF) in Delft but a comparative one from its English subsidiary, N.C.W. Cable. The text is in English and the correct date is 1929. (The Dutch version is from 1928.) See and Bloomsbury Auctions.]

At a late stage, we were provided with this image rather than the original Dutch version we expected. The description and date should have been changed.

p. 231 why is Piet Zwart included in this chapter rather than the one on the Bauhaus and the new typography?

… because, as the Dutch Cable Factory catalogue shows, he was exemplary in his application of the New Typography within a commercial context. Though Zwart was an important figure in the early application of Modernist principles of design, he was not central to the activities at the Bauhaus (though for a while he was a guest lecturer there not long before the school closed). Furthermore, he was not as important in communicating the theory behind the New Typography as someone like Tschichold, nor did he make a typeface associated with the style, as Renner did.

pp. 221–222 “The stimulus for it [Zwart’s use of photography in the NKF catalogue] was chiefly technological: the advance of a printing process that could convert the smooth, greyish tones of a photographic negative into an array of black dots of varying sizes.… This dotted or ‘half-tone’ image could be made for printing in relief and thus could be placed alongside the type in letterpress (also in relief) and printed together….”

[This is a strange place to first mention halftone screens. The first printed photo using a halftone screen occurred in 1873 and the use of such screens was common by the 1890s.]

The photographic halftone grew in popularity during the 1890s, but at this time it was still a bastard image. Those half-tone images that were derived from photographs (the half-tone was also used to reproduce drawings) tended to be worked on by engravers (it was still a photorelief process) or extensively retouched before being printed. The engravers attempted to extend the range of tones in the image (which the half-tone process had flattened) or, as was common in the US, give the image a woodcut finish, (see The Mass Image by Gerry Beegan (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).

What we think of as a half-tone image, i.e. a photograph printed in a magazine or newspaper, which has no obvious trace of a human hand or any other non-photographic aesthetic imposed on it, only became the norm after the First World War. Its dominance as the main form of illustration was helped by the invention of the small-format point-and-press camera during the 1920s.

p. 223 “Formerly an ailing humour magazine, Life was reinvented as a picture magazine and its design and content were altered accordingly.”

[Life, the picture magazine, bought the rights to the name Life from Life, the humor magazine. Other than that, there is no connection between the two. See and /]

… which is why it was appropriate to describe the magazine as being “reinvented”.

p. 223 “the oddly goggled yet handsome head” [in the 1936 Pontresina poster by Herbert Matter]

[The goggles are protection against the sun and glare off the snow. By including them in the image, Matter suggests to the viewer that Pontresina will be sunny and warm even while skiing. Similar hints about skiing not being cold can be found in other Matter posters.]

The goggles were only described as odd because they look so different to the kind of ski-goggles worn today.

p. 226 “Brodovitch was employed by Harper’s within the newly defined role of ‘art director’….”

[The role of the art director was not that new as the Art Directors Club of New York was organized in 1920, implying that there were already a number of art directors plying their trade in the city in the previous decade. When did the term and the position begin and what was it? Art directors came from magazines and advertising in the early years and, as their name implies, they were responsible for directing (choosing and overseeing) the art used in a publication or an advertisement. Art meant paintings, illustrations or decoration that were commissioned, but eventually it also included photography (as in Brodovitch’s day). Look at the early annuals of the ADC and you will find pages showing off border decorations among other winning items.]

The words “newly defined” refer to what was new for the magazine, Harper’s, and not for graphic design in general.

p. 227 the list of émigrés has Depero, Grosz, Gabo, Duchamp, Mondrian, Gropius, Bayer, Moholy-Nagy, Breuer and Mies van der Rohe but leaves out those more relevant to graphic design such as Carlu, Matter, Salter, Agha, Brodovitch, Lionni, Tscherny, Burtin, Steinberg. Furthermore, Depero was not truly an émigré as he worked in New York City from 1928 to 1930 but then returned to Italy before briefly (1947–1949) living in the United States again. See / and Graphic Design History (New York: Allworth Communications, Inc., 2001) by Steven Heller and Georgette Ballance pp. 157–158.]

Brodovitch was included (it was his initial mention that prompted the list of others). The aim of the list was to show just how influential émigrés had been across the visual arts; that their influence had not been confined to graphic design. By opening the list out in this way, it was possible to include many of the individuals already mentioned in the text, and conversely, by not focusing on graphic design, it was possible to avoid mentioning names that didn’t appear anywhere else (because they didn’t fit into this outline of graphic styles).

True enough, Depero ought not to have been included here (I did not double check his dates).

p. 226 “The form he [Brodovitch] gave to the text was unbounded by any ‘house-style’. No single grid guided its placement.”

[A house style does not require the use of a grid. The idea that it does is essentially a post-1960 phenomenon. Much design of the

past did not rely on such structures but was more intuitive within the constraints of metal type. There is a house style (or Brodovitch style) to Harper’s which relies not on grids but on an approach to layout that seeks to surprise. Brodovitch’s use of photography and on Bodoni type were two elements of that style.]

The two sentences were emphasizing two slightly different things. In my mind at least, “house style” here referred primarily to the style and size of type; the “grid” to the position of the text.

Though many pre-1960 publications may not have had their layout thought about in terms of grids, for the ease of production if nothing else, the text and much of the illustration tended to appear in a uniform manner. So, though a house style did not require the use of grids, the default position was to use at least a simple form of them.

chapter 15 Good Design Is Good Business: Commercial Modernism, c.1920–c.1960 is a hodge podge, ranging both geographically and stylistically (odd for a book dedicated to style as an organizing principle) all over the map: Cassandre, Zwart, Matter, Life magazine, Norman Rockwell, Brodovitch, Mickey Mouse, Lester Beall for the Rural Electrification Administration (this is commercial?), Pintori for Olivetti, IBM and Paul Rand, Lubalin against war (commercial?), Dorfsman on the space program (commercial?) and more. There needs to be some distinction between businesses such as NKF, IBM and Olivetti and magazines (whether newsweeklies or pulps). The only thing that holds this chapter together is the date range from c.1920 to c.1960 (though the CBS advertisement in fig. 15.26 is from 1962).

This chapter takes as its starting point the stylistic variety contained in an earlier chapter, chapter 12, which explored the first wave of Modernism. The series of Modernist styles described in the earlier chapter provided later designers with an array of forms, which they then combined to produce a mix of novel designs. These later designers thought of themselves, and were seen from the outside, as continuing the ‘tradition’ of Modernism (aesthetically if not ideologically). Their approach and attitude are what unites most of the examples in the chapter. And because the examples chosen are based on a mixing of Modernist elements they are necessarily varied. (A few other images show how existing styles of design were influenced by some of the new media associated with Modernism.)

For the most part, this mixing took place within a commercial rather than a political/ideological context. (As the lead-in to chapter 15 describes it: “Designers took it [Modernism] out of its initial ideological context and applied it to more straightforwardly commercial ends” (p. 217)). Though the word “commercial” does not apply in every instance – e.g. the posters by Beall and Lubalin (Dorfsman’s image is an advert; it is ‘selling’ a TV programme for CBS) – it does describe the dominant force behind the evolution of this mid-century form of Modernism.

p. 229 “What they [early American modernists] created was a more flexible and less narrowly focused style of design—Brodovitch for example mixed a version of the eighteenth-century typeface Bodoni with his Modernist photographs….”

[This misses the fact that it was not only Brodovitch among the Modernists who used Bodoni. Jan Tschichold used it on his cover of Typographische Gestaltung (1935) and it subsequently became a staple for Paul Rand, Gene Federico, Reid Miles, Massimo Vignelli and others. Could it have been because Bodoni was a “modern” style typeface or simply that it had the cool, crispness associated with 20th c. modern design?]

The aim of the text was not to focus on the use of Bodoni per se. The important point was to show the flexibility of Brodovitch’s approach (a characteristic that was shared by other mid-century Modernists, some of whom are listed in the comment above). Such an approach led Brodovitch to combine graphic forms from different eras (late-eighteenth century Bodoni (or a twentieth-century interpretation of it) with mid-nineteenth century/early twentieth century photography), though it was an approach that many early Modernists would have condemned.

In addition, if names of individuals that hadn’t yet been brought into the story, e.g. Rand and Vignelli, had been included here the narrative approach of the text would have been disturbed (and there is already a lot of information for the reader to contend with.)

A desire to make contrasts between the style of graphic elements and/or the associations of these elements was the cause of the Bodoni typeface’s popularity. Bodoni’s refined “crispness” and its relative geometry meant it often fitted with the orderly nature of an overall (Modernist) design or the orderly aspect of the Modernist aesthetic. And yet, at the same time, its historical associations contrasted with this twentieth century style. (A similar kind of contrast was made by the stencil lettering that Paul Rand also often used.)

p. 232 “Rand’s best-known piece of design, the IBM logo, was, paradoxically, one in which his creative input was rather limited.”

p. 232 “The square counters (the negative spaces enclosed in the letters) in the ‘B’ and the pointed trough [?] of the ‘M’ [of City Bold in the 1956 IBM logo] certainly made it look more distinctive [than the 1947 IBM logo] and, in combination with the heavier weight, more assertive, but essentially it was similar.”

[Cramsie does not realize how subtle changes to a logo can lead to radical results. To call the 1956 IBM logo essentially the same as the 1947 one is to reveal a lack of understanding of graphic design. One could equally say that the differences between the types of Francesco Griffo and John Baskerville are minor and that type designers such as Claude Garamond, William Caslon and Miklos Kis did little that was original.]

[Georg Trump, the designer of City, is not identified.]

The last word in the second quote (‘p. 232’ above), i.e. “similar”, is important for the following explanation. (The phrase “the same” was not used, as is implied in Blue Pencil’s comment.) Most people, and most readers even, would accept the description of the two logos (below) as being “essentially similar”.


Of course, the differences between the logos are clear too, especially to designers, who are used to looking at letter shapes more closely than most. The different shapes give the logos a different emotional tone, a different ‘character’ (described in the text, with respect to Rand’s logo, as “more distinctive … more assertive”). But in the wider context of the range of possibilities that exist for the design of a logo – which, potentially, was Rand’s starting point – they are “essentially … similar”. They both appear as a horizontal row of three letters, the letters are capitals, they have large dominating serifs, the letter strokes are thick and imposing, there are no other graphic elements (e.g. lines or boxes), etc., etc. None of these attributes needed to feature in Rand’s new logo, yet each of them did. And the reason they did was because Rand purposefully set out to make a logo that was similar. “IBM was a very conservative organization … I perceived that something that they would accept would be pretty close to what they already had … They had a slab serif, so I used a slightly different slab serif”, and then in a description (by another) of the reaction to the new logo, “Nobody [at IBM] said anything about it. There was no ‘Gee, that’s terrific’, because it wasn’t that different from what everybody was used to seeing” pp. 150–151, Paul Rand by Steven Heller (London: Phaidon, 1999).

(Had IBM been a less conservative organization, the range of possibilities for the design of Rand’s logo – possibilities of shape, tone, texture, colour and the variety of media at his disposal – would have been great. Far greater than the range available to the designers of text type (punched and carved out of metal) mentioned in Blue Pencil’s comment. This difference, in the range of possibilities for each of the two kinds of design, informs the way we look at and judge them. It leads us to judge the ‘difference’ between two text-type designs, say, in a different way to the ‘difference’ between two logos. For example, a subtle change in the serifs of a text type will seem to be much more significant, to constitute a greater ‘difference’, than the same change in the serifs of a three lettered logo. This kind of local, object-specific way of judging things (guided by expectations that are informed by an awareness of the range of possibilities) is a recognized phenomenon in the psychology of perception.)

The main point of comparing the two logos was to show that the common, unequivocal description of Rand as having ‘designed the IBM logo’ is not quite the whole story (at least with respect to the 1956 version). Even in some otherwise very detailed accounts of the logo’s design, the foundational 1947 version of the logo is not shown (e.g. Heller’s monograph and Rand’s own Design, Form and Chaos). In order to gauge the importance of the 1947 version it is instructive to ask the question ‘would Rand have come up with the striper logo if the 1947 version had not been his first point of departure?’. I expect that many people would answer ‘probably not’. It is therefore relevant to point out what this point of departure was, and indeed how Rand’s 1956 design was (in the context of a logo) “essentially similar”.

fig. 15.16 IBM logos the middle IBM logo is misdated as 1972 when it should be 1956

See the response to Blue Pencil’s comment ‘p. 23’ (‘constantcy’) above.

figs. 15.23 Anti-war poster designed by Herb Lubalin, 1972 and 15.24 Typographic designs, Herb Lubalin, 1962–5 are poor choices to show Herb Lubalin’s influence. Something from his days at Sudler & Hennessey designing pharmaceutical advertising (commercial!) and from his time working for Ralph Ginzburg in the 1960s or with ITC in the 1970s would have been more appropriate. The anti-war poster is beyond the imposed dates for the chapter. The designs in fig. 15.24 (Marriage, Mother & Child and Families) were not solely Lubalin’s work but that of his studio Lubalin, Smith & Carnase.]

These examples were not chosen to show Herb Lubalin’s influence. They were chosen to say something about the nature of the style of design described in the chapter (the specific thing being that a witty interplay between type and image could also be achieved without photographs or illustrations, by making ‘images’ out of letters).

For the use of the term “commercial” see the response to Blue Pencil’s comment ‘chapter 15’ above.

No styles are bounded by neat starting and ending points. The dates used for each chapter therefore are necessarily loose (hence the circas). What the dates mark is the main period discussed in the chapter. There are some instances though, not many but some, when a date within the text or the date of a picture falls outside the main period discussed. See the response to Blue Pencil’s comment ‘chapter 13’ above.

fig. 15.25 Typographic designs, Brownjohn, Chermayeff & Geismar Associates, 1962 this example of Chermayeff & Geismar’s work is not representative of the firm.

[The title of this work, Watching Words Move, is missing. The image is taken from a reprint of the original since it is set in Helvetica and the original was in Standard (Akzidenz Grotesk). The date should be 1959 since that is when the design was done. It was published as an insert in the December 1962 edition of Typographica. See Robert Brownjohn Sex and Typography: 1925–1970, life and work by Emily King (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2005), p. 146.]

As with the illustrations mentioned above, this illustration was not meant to be representative of a particular designer or design company (though, as it happens, two illustrations of designs for Mobil, in the next chapter, are representative of Chermayeff & Geismar). The images were chosen to illustrate facets of the style being discussed (specifically how, in contrast to the examples by Lubalin, ‘images’ made with type could be independent of the type’s style or shape, i.e. the ‘image’ created relied on the relative position of letters).

Unfortunately, the source of this illustration was an old, dark and broken up photocopy of pages from Typographica magazine.

p. 239 “…in 1960, Haas’s new parent company, Stempel….”

[This is not true. D. Stempel AG bought 45% share of Haas in 1927 and in 1954 it bought more shares (from H. Berthold AG) to become the majority stockholder but most of its shares had earlier been sold to Linotype GmbH. See Helvetica Forever: The Story of a Typeface edited by Victor Malsy and Lars Müller (Baden: Lars Müller Publishers, 2009), p. 25.]

Perhaps the lack of a universally accepted definition of the term ‘parent company’ makes it difficult to agree on how the term should be applied. But, in the UK at least, a parent company is a company that owns at least 51% of another, even if the former company is itself owned by a third company. (See

fig. 16.3 Neue Helvetica, 1983 and figs. 16.4, 16.5 Comparison of Akzidenz [sic], Helvetica and Univers both rely on digital font versions

… which are described as such in the main text, and then later in the picture list. See the response to Blue Pencil’s comment ‘p. 147’.

p. 248 “While it [Neue Grafik] established the grid as an important tool of design, it did not invent it. Early in the era of manuscript production, long before books were printed, simple grids had been used to mark out where the lines of handwritten text should appear.…”

he goes on to explain that more complex information led to more complex grids, oriented to the reader more than the producer, in which fields replaced lines as the basic unit. He ignores one of the driving forces behind the shift to fields, the need to incorporate more imagery (primarily photographs) into designs in the mid-20th century compared to medieval manuscripts and early printed books. Further, he downplays the benefits of the field-based grid to the producer—especially in designing series of books. See Designing Programmes by Karl Gerstner (1963).

The paragraph that follows the passage quoted above shows that “the need to incorporate more imagery” is not ignored: “… as printed pages began to incorporate more varied kinds of information – headings, main text, captions [which accompany “imagery”], illustrations [in its general sense, so including photographs], diagrams [a form of “imagery”?] and the like [which could include other forms of “imagery”] – the grid had to become more complex …” (p. 249). The paragraph also appears under an illustration showing a heavily illustrated spread from Neue Grafik. The illustrations, and text, in this magazine spread are clearly set within a grid.

While the text does not ignore “imagery”, imagery/photographs are not identified as being a driving force behind the shift to field-based grids. This is because I’m not sure that imagery/photographs were such a driving force. Picture magazines, for example, which began to use large numbers of photographs in the 1920s and 1930s (see fig. 15.9), never developed, or shifted to, field-based grids (today’s National Enquirer, People magazine, etc. don’t use them). In fact, most magazines today incorporate a great deal of imagery, but very few of them use field-based grids. The use of such grids was prompted by a range of factors, one of which was, in some instances, the need for an efficient way of laying out a large amount of imagery/number of photographs. But the more significant factors were the desire to present the reader with an orderly arrangement in an effort to achieve the most effective kind of communication (the belief was that information laid out in this way could be “read more quickly, understood better and therefore remembered more easily” (p. 249); and then there was often a strong aesthetic dimension: a love of order for its own sake, or for its sense of objectivity or, on occasion, for the sake of establishing a uniform corporate identity or, indeed, a uniform design for a series of publications (see p. 13, ‘What is the purpose of the grid?’, Grid Systems by Josef Müller-Brockmann, 5th edition (Sulgen, Switzerland: Verlag Niggli AG, 2007).

Actually, field-based grids can create particular difficulties for the designer. They impose a limited set of horizontal positions onto the layout. Text or pictures are forced to fit into these horizontal positions. If the information is varied and complex this can make the task of laying out harder (though, often, the clarity and beauty that fields bring to the page makes the effort worthwhile). When the layout is not restricted by a fixed set of horizontal positions, the text and pictures can be positioned more easily (though, often, less clearly).

p. 256 “The gridded patterns of their [New Yorkers’] streets had given them a better understanding of the distances within their city [compared to London].”

[This is a common misconception. Manhattan is gridded (but not below 14th Street) as are many parts of Brooklyn and the Bronx, but there are large parts of New York City (especially in Queens and Staten Island) that are as vexing as central London. One of the shortcomings of the 1972 Vignelli map was how it distorted lower Manhattan.]

Since over three quarters of the map’s subway stations are located in areas Blue Pencil describes as being gridded or having many gridded parts – Manhattan, Brooklyn, The Bronx (though parts of the east Queens area are gridded too, as is Manhattan’s East Village, below 14th Street) – and since most people using the subway would have commuted to and from the first two areas mentioned, is it really not correct, as a general statement, to say of New Yorkers “the gridded pattern of their streets [streets that large numbers of them were commuting to and from almost every day] had given them a better understanding [better than Londoners who have no gridded areas to speak of] of the distances within their city”? Perhaps a less general, more precise statement would have ended with “… within the heart of their city”.

Also, is language not a guide here? The word ‘block’ is used by New Yorkers as a rough description of distance within their city (‘a couple of blocks away’). For those parts that are gridded it is a meaningful term. The fact that New Yorkers can relate so much of the most frequented parts of their city to the simple scheme of a block or grid is likely to have some impact on their general understanding of distance. Londoners on the other hand do not use ‘block’ or any other equivalent.

chapter 17 Handmade and Homespun: Illustrated Modernism & Psychedelia, c.1950–c.1970 is nearly as jumbled as Chapter 15 as it bundles together Pablo Picasso, Saul Bass (but not Harold Adler), Peter Blake (and Jann Haworth), Wes Wilson, Henri Matisse, Jan Lenica, Lance Wyman, Milton Glaser, the Atélier Populaire, and Oz magazine. There is no realization that there are different kinds of handmade design and that not all of it was a reaction to Swiss design.

The introduction (p. 12) describes the aim of the book as follows: “to sketch out the main styles of Western graphic design”. It is because “there have been far too many styles for them all to be done justice within the pages of a single book” that the book focuses on “the main broadest branches”. This explains why different kinds of handmade design have been grouped together. Indeed, contrary to Blue Pencil’s comment, it is because there was a realization that there are different kinds of handmade design that so many of them were brought together within this chapter. These designs have been grouped into three strands: designs influenced by fine art (pp. 261–272 approx.), designs that are political (pp. 273–284 approx.) and designs from the ‘underground’ press (pp. 285–287 approx.). Within these strands, clearly, there is great stylistic variety, but what holds them together is that almost every piece of work shown is dominated by handmade marks. As such, these works stand in contrast to those in the previous chapter (on Swiss typography, a parallel style), in which no trace of a human hand is evident.

The first page of the chapter gives some of the background behind ‘handmade and homespun’ graphic design during the 1950s and 1960s. Among other things, the importance of individual expression, the growth of mass movements and the rise of a youth-based counterculture are stressed. Swiss design is only mentioned in the last quarter of the page. It is described there (p. 261) as “one of the cultural forms” that designers wanted to counter. The paragraph ends by saying: “hand-rendered illustration in countercultural graphic design, also owed a debt to two other influences: the fine arts and printing technology”. After describing one of the consequences of colour printing, the next ten pages, over a third of the chapter, describes the various ways in which fine art and graphic design interacted. No mention is made of Swiss design; nor is any made in the remainder of the chapter.

p. 261 “The freedoms fought for by the war generation were defined by questions of nationhood, empire and trade.”

[The mention of “empire” is a reminder that this book has been written from a British perspective as opposed to the American perspectives of Meggs, Eskilson and Drucker/McVarish and the French perspective of Jubert. This British perspective becomes more pronounced in this chapter and the following one.]

The mention of “empire” here is not indicative of any British perspective. Empire was central to the second world war, both with respect to the origins of the war (Germany set out to establish an empire in Europe) and to the unfolding of what was initially a European conflict into a global or ‘world’ war (in part because the colonial links of many European countries were so widespread, as the text describes). The war put the colonial interests of many European nations – Britain, France, Spain and so forth – in jeopardy. Such colonies had, for the most part, been founded during the establishment of empires, in some instances centuries before. The war also brought other, non-European, colonial interests into play – Japanese and those of the USSR (which, though it did not call itself an empire, bore the hallmarks of one). In many instances, these interests helped nations decide which side to fight on, that of the Allies or the Axis powers, which in turn determined what happened to the colonies after the war.

Though I have not attempted to write a history from a “British perspective”, there is, admittedly, an almost inevitable predominance of British and, indeed, American designs. Part of this has to do with graphic design being a fundamentally mechanical/industrial activity (the book’s introduction describes (mechanical) reproduction as a defining characteristic (p. 11)). Because Britain was the dominant industrial power during most of the nineteenth century, and America similarly during the twentieth, much of what was innovative in graphic design (technologically and artistically) came from these two countries. (And the two centuries they dominated account for two-thirds of the book.) A second factor behind any British/American bias is their shared language, English, which for decades now has been the word’s most popular language. As a result, more graphic design writing appears in English than in any other language. This only reinforces a bias towards cultural objects, such as items of graphic design, that use the English language, which then further entrenches the dominance of British and American graphic design.

Of the 21 images of works of graphic design in this chapter (which Blue Pencil’s comment describes as having a British bias), 8 are by American designers; 4 by British; 4 French; 2 Cuban; 2 Australian; 1 Spanish; 1 Polish – (a total of 22, because one of the works had two designers). Much of the period being discussed in the chapter was when London, in particular, was one of the creative centres of the counterculture. (The text mentions Time magazine’s promotion of London as the ‘city of the decade’ in 1965.) The inclusion of four works by British designers (and one American and one Australian working in Britain) reflects the importance of the country and its capital to many aspects of countercultural activity at this time.

Despite the focus on the handmade in this chapter (and on social activism) a number of significant individuals are left out: e.g. Ben Shahn, Paul Peter Piech, Sister Corita Kent, David Stone Martin, Saul Steinberg, and Tomi Ungerer.

As the introduction describes, this is a history of graphic style. Therefore: “No attempt has been made to include each of the most significant individuals in the field” (p. 12). It is important to emphasize that a central aim of the book is to provide many of its readers with a first orientation in an unfamiliar landscape. It is meant to serve much like a world atlas, outlining the main continents (of style) and some of the prominent places (individuals, techniques and, indeed, places). Yet, because it creates this outline by explaining why some examples from each of the main styles look the way they do (something other histories have not done), it is hoped that those designers who are familiar with the broad outline of graphic design history will also find much that is new and interesting.

(They may also appreciate a second novel feature. Paying close attention to particular works of design made it natural for the text to highlight some of the more general but, nevertheless, fundamental aspects of graphic design. This derives from one of the paradoxes of introspection: that by looking inward into something it is often possible to see more of what lies outside. By looking into works of graphic design it allowed the text to touch on, for example, the origin and use of the word ‘style’; to seek an explanation for the prominence of the colour red in all forms of graphic communication; to engage with aspects of perceptual psychology when considering the legibility of letters; to consider the nature of superstition when looking at the use of photographs by the news media; and to question the nature of identity in a consumerist society when confronted with relatively recent works of graphic design-related art. These are just some of the important issues that have rarely made their way into other graphic design histories.)

p. 268 “A similar focus on the expressive quality of monochrome brushstrokes also defined a simple, almost child-like, poster created in 1965, not long after [Franz] Kline’s painting, for Air France (fig. 17.7).”

[Why is there no illustration of a Franz Kline painting or at least the mention of a specific one?]

As mentioned in the response to Blue Pencil’s comment ‘p. 180’ above, works by designers had to take precedence over works by artists (though the picture to be shown was Kline’s ‘Le Gros’, 1961).


p. 269 Op Art is mentioned but not Victor Vasarely, its most famous practitioner in the 1960s. Franco Grignani’s work is not included or noted and there is not even a shout back to fig. 16.20, the Woolmark logo by Francesco Saroglia.

Unlike the Abstract Expressionist Air France poster mentioned in Blue Pencil’s previous comment, the formal characteristics of the book’s Op-art related graphic design could not be encapsulated convincingly by works of any particular Op artists (the exception perhaps being the Mexico Olympics logos and works by the British artist, Bridget Riley, though the text makes only a cursory mention of the logos). For this reason no individual artists were mentioned.

Grignani suffered, as other important designers did, both from the concision that is required of a book like this and from the book’s emphasis on graphic style rather than individual designers. Having said that, he should have been included in order to describe the experimental photographic techniques he used to manipulate typographic or abstract forms often while staying within the idiom of the Swiss style.

I was not aware how strong the links between Saroglia and Op art were, so, indeed, I should have included a shout back.

p. 269 “The poster [Alban Berg Wozzeck by Jan Lenica, 1964] takes its basic motif from a painting that has come to define the movement [Expressionism], The Scream, by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, who first painted it in 1893…. The poster’s lettering looks back to an earlier period still, that of Art Nouveau.”

[But The Scream was painted at the beginning of the Art Nouveau era.]

Art Nouveau began in the early 1880s (see fig. 10.5, Arthur H. Mackmurdo’s title page for Wren’s City Churches) and ended around 1905. Although Munch’s ‘The Scream’ came to symbolize Expressionism for many (the 1893 version was the first of several versions that Munch made in different media up to 1910), the style itself did not crystallize into a distinct programme until about 1905.

pp. 272–276 are devoted to images of Che Guevara. This is too many for a book trying to be economical (similarly three pages of Helvetica were too much in an earlier chapter). This book already skimps on images and on individuals. The point about the iconization, dispersion and commodification of Che’s image could have been made much more concisely. And how can such a discussion leave out Paul Davis’ famous image of Che done for Evergreen Review (February 1968) which must surely have been a key moment in the beatification of the guerilla leader. See, and

There are four images and three (full) pages of text relating to the Che Guevara portrait. The reason for this special emphasis is threefold: i) the ‘story’ surrounding the images touches on many of the themes that define the period discussed in the chapter (left-wing politics, student rebellion, the growth of a cult of celebrity fed by photography, and the later commercialization of political images); ii) as one of the most well-known portraits in the world it has a special status – it is one of the few works of graphic design that has a currency beyond the world of design and outside of the culture in which it was created (logos excepted); iii) no other history of graphic design has explained this important image in any great detail. (An abridged reading of the Che-related text can be listened to at the bottom of the following web page:

Exactly which poster or graphic image caused the portrait to become so popular is not clear. Rather than Paul Davis’s poster, for example, recent writings on the subject have suggested that a photographic poster published by the Italian Giangiacomo Feltrinelli in 1967 was particularly influential. So too the first official commemorative poster, by the Cuban designer Niko, as well as another commemorative poster by Elena Serrano (fig. 17.16), both of which were made in 1968. Other posters, by Roman Cieslewicz, in France, or Jim Fitzpatrick, in Ireland, are known to have been distributed widely. (See Che Guevara: Revolutionary & Icon edited by Trisha Ziff (London: V&A Publications, 2006) and then also Che Guevara: Icon, Myth and Message by David Kunzle (Los Angeles: Fowler Museum of Cultural History, 2002).

Helvetica (and Akzidenz Grotesk – this typeface is discussed alongside Helvetica) was/were so central to the Swiss Typographic style they deserved two (full) pages of text (out of a total of twenty pages, including pictures).

fig. 17.22 Semaphore alphabet it is not necessary to show the entire semaphore alphabet to make the point about its connection to the ND symbol (fig. 17.21 but on the previous page unfortunately)

[What is missing is any mention of Rudolf Koch’s Book of Signs (London: First Edition Club, 1930) as an influence (i.e. the symbol for “The man dies” p. 10 is the same as the ND symbol without the surrounding circle).]

Only showing two symbols from the semaphore alphabet, the ‘N’ and ‘D’, would have done little more than the same symbols did, or do, on Gerald Holtom’s sketch (their appearance there makes the position of the alphabet on the next page less of an issue). The sketch’s symbols certainly don’t manage to get across the idea of a system of communication, and though the two black symbols are much clearer than the sketch’s symbols, they were tried on their own but they failed to get the idea over convincingly.

I am unaware of any evidence that suggests Holtom, the designer of the ND symbol, was influenced by the image in Rudolf Koch’s book. Koch’s symbols were examples “… from the earliest times to the Middle Ages by primitive peoples and early Christians”. The text in The Story of Graphic Design does describe the early existence of this unbounded symbol both as a letter in a runic alphabet and as a symbol relating to early Christianity.

p. 284 there is no image from The Medium Is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan and designed by Quentin Fiore to accompany the discussion of McLuhan’s theories

… because the comment by McLuhan on the Vietnam war appears in a chapter about a style that is different to that displayed in the book designed by Fiore.

chapter 18 Tearing It Up: Punk, c.1975–c.1985 emphasizes British Punk rather with no mention of the American experience

The first page describes how “a new social movement developed, in the US and Britain in particular” (p. 289), but thereafter, it is true, in the few instances when a nationality or country is mentioned (this chapter being the shortest, only 9 pages), none mention America. There are three images of Punk graphics proper; one is Jamie Reid’s totemic ‘God Save the Queen’ design for the Sex Pistols. The other two are from British fanzines, though one is dominated by a picture of Patti Smith, a prominent figure in early US punk.

p. 293 “Yet, despite the fact that album covers and other forms of rock-related graphics were making large numbers of people interested in graphic design, often for the very first time, the design industry in general considered this kind of work to be be unimportant.…”

[Apparently, the design history profession also considers it unimportant as everyone from Meggs to Jubert to Eskilson to Drucker/McVarish to Cramsie skims over album cover design. Cramsie does not even include Alex Steinweiss, the father of record cover design nor Reid Miles of Blue Note fame. Among those slighted (before 1977) are David Stone Martin, Jim Flora, Rudolph de Harak, Paul Bacon, Robert Crumb, Heinz Edelman, Klaus Voormann, Mouse & Kelly, S. Neil Fujita, Phil Hays, Paul Davis, Marvin Israel, John Berg, Daniel Pelavin, Gerard Huerta, Milton Glaser, Hipgnosis, Martin Sharp, and John van Hamersveld.]

Each of the last four chapters contains an album cover. Accompanying these covers are other music related graphics, such as posters and fanzines (thus music related graphics average roughly one in every four pictures within the last four chapters). Their appearance in these particular chapters, rather than the preceding chapter (on Swiss Typography), is because they were much more broadly representative of, if not essential to, the styles covered (Illustrated Modernism & Psychedelia, Punk, New Wave & Postmodernism, and Digital Expressionism).

How could the individuals mentioned above be “slighted” when the book aims to give an overview of the main styles of graphic design?

Not an album cover design, but Milton Glaser is included through his design of an insert to an album cover.

pp. 293–294 “… album cover design was generally regarded as the perfunctory product of an anonymous [emphasis added] layout designer or illustrator. The status of music-related graphics only began to rise once designers such as [Jamie] Reid and the British graphic designer and illustrator Colin Fulcher (1942–1983) had shown its potential for expression and wit.”

[This completely overlooks the American rock music scene (and before that jazz scene) from the early 1950s on. See my list of names above (which includes a few non-Americans). “The Grammy Awards began presenting awards for Best Album Cover in 1959, recognizing the growing artistry of the ‘face’ of recorded music releases,” according to]

Though the music industry may have paid some attention to album cover design from the late 1950s, it is still the case that generally, within the music industry as a whole, as well as outside it, music related graphic design was not given much importance. By and large the designers were anonymous. Those who weren’t may have been known to a relatively small band of devotees, but all of these designers were swimming against a tide of anonymity and conformity. As Ruth Lion, wife of the founder of Blue Note Records, described at the time “they [the people working at the label] thought it was very important to put these mens’ photos [photos of the players] as prominently as possible on the covers and they get a lot of flack from distributors across the country who felt a pretty girl would have been better” p.10, The Cover Art of Blue Note Records edited by Graham Marsh, Glyn Callingham and Felix Cromey (London: Collins & Brown, 1991). The relative anonymity of designers before the late-1960s is proved by the fact that so few of them are well known by designers today. By contrast, three of the most well-known practising graphic designers – Neville Brody, David Carson and Stefan Sagmeister – are known by some non-designers as well as many designers, and each of theses three made their names through music-related graphics.

[Record cover designers were no less anonymous than designers in general prior to the 1980s and the advent of the “rock star” designer. And there are quite a number of signed or credited album covers from the 1950s and 1960s. The names may not mean much to us today—Esmond Edwards, Ken Deardoff, William Claxton, Marvin Israel, Philip Hays, Jim Flora—but they are often there.]

p. 301 “…perhaps the best known Postmodern architect of the time, the American architect and industrial designer Michael Graves.”

[There is no mention of Robert Venturi or of Learning from Las Vegas, the influential book he wrote with Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour. See Learning from Las Vegas (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1972; rev. ed. 1977). For Muriel Cooper’s controversial design for the first edition see]

Robert Venturi appears in the endnotes as the author of a quote in the text (“less is a bore”) that appeared his first architectural ‘manifesto’, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. This book predated his second manifesto Learning from Las Vegas by six years and has been described as a seminal text for the Postmodern movement.

Michael Graves’s name is included in the main text because the photograph of his Portland Building was an eloquent opening image for the chapter. The image also helped to explain William Longhauser’s 1983 poster for an exhibition of Graves’s work.

p. 306 “Mike McCoy” should be Michael McCoy as the name of his firm is Michael McCoy Design. See

An attempt was made to send every living designer whose work appears in the book the relevant piece of text in order that they could check it for factual accuracy. (Only a handful couldn’t be contacted or weren’t able/willing to look at the text.) The relevant text was sent to Mike and Katherine McCoy. Neither of them asked for the name to be changed. On the Cranbrook website there are instances when “Mike” is used ( However, “Michael” is certainly the more common form on the website, as it is elsewhere on the internet. It should have been used.

figs. 20.2 E13-B, 1958, 20.3 OCR A, 1966 and 20.4 OCR B, 1968 are digital versions of film faces

E13-B is made from a scan of the film version.

p. 318 “Though the letters all appear in the same typeface, their varied sizes and careful positioning, and the positioning of the shoes they advertise, were made possible by the immediacy and control that came from designing with a computer.”

[This design by Neville Brody for Nike (1992) [fig. 20.11] could have (and was) easily done in the pre-computer era of cut-and-paste mechanicals. See the work of Bradbury Thompson (not in this book) such as “Composition in Space” 1951 in The Art of Graphic Design by Bradbury Thompson (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1988), p. 125 or the William Longhauser poster advertising Michael Graves (see fig. 19.5 in this book). The typeface in the design is not Helvetica as claimed but Franklin Gothic.]

I am unable to look at Bradbury Thompson’s designs until later, but the letterforms in the William Longhauser poster are overlapping, not precisely abutting as in Brody’s ad. I’ve not come across any other pre-computer design that precisely abuts and aligns like Brody’s.

A description of Brody’s decision to design with Helvetica at around this time (for the magazine ‘Arena’) led me to describe the type wrongly (see The Graphic Language of Neville Brody 2 by Jon Wozencroft (London: Thames and Hudson, 1994) p. 110).

p. 322 “The unconventional way in which he [David Carson] combined text and pictures, as well as other kinds of graphic marks, was rooted in his lack of formal training.”

[This repeats the canard that Carson is a self-made designer, ignoring his stint (even if only for a few weeks in summer) in a workshop led by Hans Rudolf Lutz, a Swiss designer who broke from the modernist tradition in the early 1970s. See


Few people who had attended a graphic design workshop for a few weeks would describe themselves as having been formally trained in graphic design. Actually, that workshop was the second graphic design workshop that Carson attended. He had also attended a ‘commercial art’ college for six months (though he only describes being taught how to paint). The word “formal” was carefully chosen because though Carson only spent a short period studying graphic design in a college or in workshops he did receive instruction in magazine design while working as an intern.

p. 337 “Gray, Nicolette” [twice] should be “Gray, Nicolete”

In the first instance this spelling matches the spelling used throughout the book that is mentioned in the bibliography here (XIXth Century Ornamented Types and Title Pages, 1951). The second instance wrongly followed the first.

p. 337 Gray, Nicolette [sic], XIXth Century Ornamented Types and Title Pages, Faber and Faber, London, 1951 is cited in the bibliography but the revised second edition titled Nineteenth Century Ornamented Typefaces (1976) is considered to be a better book

See the above response for the spelling of Nicolette.

[There are many books missing from the bibliography but the one that is most surprising is the 4th edition of A History of Graphic Design by Philip B. Meggs and Alston Purvis (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2006). Also No More Rules: Graphic Design and Postmodernism by Rick Poynor (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2003) is absent.]

Both books are absent because neither were consulted during the process of researching and writing. (I was keen not to be influenced by Meggs.) See the response to Blue Pencil’s comment ‘p. 124’.

[It seems odd to deliberately avoid reading a book on the same subject. Also, my point about the Poynor book and other missing from Mr. Cramsie’s bibliography is that their absence suggests that his reading was not as wide as it should have been. Meggs’ book (and others) would have been worth consulting just for the bibliography alone.]

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